Thursday, 09 July 2020

By Udatta Bikash

The agency has been supporting around 30,000 Rohingyas refugees staying in the camps. On the other hand, it is not receiving applications for refugee status from the newly arrived Rohingyas. This amounts to compromising of its Mandate.


As Bangladesh is not a state party to the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951 and its Protocol of 1967. Bangladesh has no domestic legislation on asylum and refugees. Therefore, there is no state-run system in place for Refugee Status Determination (RSD).

In this back drop, UNHCR has been receiving and processing applications for RSD from asylum seekers from various countries. Nevertheless, UNHCR has not receiving applications from the Rohingya asylum seekers from Myanmar.  (If received not processed). However, Muslims from Myanmar (if introduced themselves as so) could apply easily and be recognized as refugees in Bangladesh by UNHCR.


The recognized refugees under UNHCR Bangladesh are from Myanmar (i.e. non-Rohingya like the Rakhine, Chin etc), Sri Lanka, Iraq, and far as from Somalia and Sudan.


UNHCR has been running RSD procedure (without any formal approval from the Government!) for last 15 years or so. However, the list of the recognized refugees is reported to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Nevertheless, the government does not have access to the profile of the individuals (who are they and why really they are in Bangladesh for).


It is learnt that UNHCR has not been receiving applications from the Rohingyas referring to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Government of Myanmar and Bangladesh, which reportedly stated that no Rohingya would be recognized as a refugee in Bangladesh after May 1994.


This so-called MoU has been depriving the persecuted Rohingyas from seeking international protection, which they are entitled to as per international human rights law. The so-called MoU is clearly against the spirit of the Refugee Convention and other relevant human rights instruments.

The preamble of the Refugee Convention referring to the UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 affirmed the principle that ‘… human beings shall enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms without discrimination.’


Again, Article 3 of the Refugee Convention provided that “… Contracting States shall apply the provisions of this Convention to refugees without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin.” This is the basic document for UNHCR’s RSD procedure. However, what UNHCR is doing in Bangladesh?


From the above, it is clear that UNHCR has been playing a discriminatory role (compromising its Mandate) against the newly arrived Rohingyas in Bangladesh. That is why those Rohingyas are bound to stay illegally in Bangladesh.


Where the cause of the persecution for the Rohingyas is the State authority in Myanmar, therefore why UNHCR is not critical of the so-called MoU signed back in 1994? It needs to be reviewed from the perspective of human rights.


Udatta Bikash is a Human Rights Practitioner