View From The Neighbourhood: Refugee relocation

View From The Neighbourhood: Refugee relocation

A weekly look at the public conversations shaping ideas beyond borders — in the Subcontinent.

Bangladesh tells UN Security Council cannot take more Myanmar refugees

Mohammad Zaman writes a measured opinion piece in The Daily Star on the Bangladesh government’s decision to relocate approximately 1,00,000 Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char — a remote, uninhabited island, about a three to four hour-long boat ride away from the mainland. Pointing out that such random relocation is not a solution to “overcrowding” of refugees, he writes, “The relocation of 100,000 refugees, only one-tenth of the refugee population in Cox’s Bazar, is not going to ease congestion or overcrowding in the camps as claimed by the government nor reduce and/or minimise the growing conflict with the host population. Even if dispersal and resettlement was required to lessen the pressure on the squalid settlements in the camps, why relocate such a huge number of refugee population to an inaccessible and physically hostile environment on a remote island in the Bay of Bengal?” He acknowledges the fact that the government has made an effort to show the refugees, via videos, where they are headed and the pros and cons. However, he says that in private, “they seem to have no interest in moving to the distant and isolated char in the Bay of Bengal.” Instead, he says, “The overwhelming preference is to remain in Ukhiya, which is a safe haven for the refugees, and is not too far from the Myanmar border. The proximity to Myanmar keeps them socially and culturally alive as Rohingya people.” The article concludes by clarifying that, “overcrowding is a common experience in refugee camps globally… The dispersal and relocation to Bhasan Char or other alternative settlements in the future may give the wrong signal to Myanmar that Bangladesh is perhaps slowly absorbing the refugee population. Thus, the relocation to Bhasan Char may potentially complicate refugee repatriation and resettlement.”

Pak welfare policy

An editorial in Dawn takes an objective view of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government’s decision to seek amendment — announced last week — to Article 38 (d) of the country’s Constitution. The editorial says that it would aim “to redefine access to food, shelter, clothing, health and education as a fundamental right” and “would certainly, in a legal sense, change the relationship of the state with its citizenry. Along with this, Mr Khan also announced an increase in the amount of money the state intends to spend on underprivileged segments of society — from Rs 80bn to Rs 120bn by 2020.” The editorial recognises the soundness of the decision but, it says, “The problem is with the path forward.” The editorial reminds readers that, “In the past, too, we have heard the prime minister speak about stunting in children and malnutrition, and the distribution of poultry as income support for low-income households.” However, it adds, “To date, there is scant evidence that much has been done to follow up on these announcements. To earnestly improve access to food, shelter, clothing, health and education, far more than constitutional amendments will be required.” The editorial claims that to get such initiatives off the ground, the first thing required would be “numbers in parliament to make this amendment to the constitution”. But it is quick to point out how, “Given the kind of relationship that Mr Khan and his government have with the opposition parties, this looks like a challenging task.”

Nepal amends service rules

An editorial in The Himalayan Times takes a look at the Nepal government’s decision, taken last week in a cabinet meeting, to amend their Civil Service Rules. The new amendment, which would allow families of civil servants who die while serving the government to claim the complete amount, will also have a retrospective effect: Families of those who’ve died before the rules were amended, can also claim full pension amount. But the editorial gives context to why such an amendment has been pushed: “The new provision is being introduced to benefit the spouse of Yubraj Dahal, under-secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, who died in a chopper crash on February 27 in Taplejung. Dahal had not completed 20 years of service. It is apparent that the government is looking for options to support Dahal’s family, whose financial status is weak.” The editorial says that “such a decision will incur a huge financial liability to the government coffers” which, the editorial states, is already under strain. It argues that no rule or law should be changed, “simply to provide monetary benefits to someone who is close to the corridors of power.” The editorial says that, “Instead of amending the Civil Service Rules, which is certain to increase additional liability to the government, ex gratia payment can be made to the affected families.”

A weekly look at the public conversations shaping ideas beyond borders — in the Subcontinent. Curated by Asad Ali