By Saaif Rasul
The protection of refugees must include the search for an appropriate durable solution. A durable solution is attained when refugees no longer have any physical, legal, social, and economic protection needs that are related to their displacement and can resume their normal lives in a safe and healthy environment. International law presents three durable solutions to the refugee problem; voluntary repatriation, resettlement, and local integration.
Voluntarily repatriation is considered to be the most beneficial and desirable solution for the refugee crisis. When the conditions in the country of origin are such that it permits return in safety and with dignity, returning to the home country is adjudged as the best solution as it enables refugees to resume their lives in a familiar settling under the protection and care of their country of origin. So, voluntary return to one’s own country may result in restoration of original conditions of living, restoration of citizenship and it also puts an end to pain and sufferings in exile. For voluntary repatriation to be a sustainable solution, it is imperative that refugees must choose to return to their country of origin on their own accord without any physical, psychological or material pressure. Currently, UNHCR has acknowledged that return is not a viable option for the Rohingya refugees. Reports by Amnesty International and stories of persecution of Rohingya in Myanmar present credible evidence that refugees who are forcibly returned to Myanmar will find their life and freedom threatened.
Local integration is a legal, economic and political process by which refugees progressively become members of the host country. The government of Bangladesh continues to reject local integration as a durable solution for the Rohingya refugees. Bangladesh is not well placed to cope with this protracted refugee situation. The country is regularly confronted with extreme poverty, high rates of population growth, natural disasters, and climate change.
According to UNHCR, ‘Resettlement’ is a process of screening and transportation of refugees from the country of the first asylum to a third country that has consented to provide them with permanent residency status. The resettlement country should provide to such protection against refoulement and also confer upon them similar rights as is enjoyed by the citizens of the country. It is a protection tool for individual refugees whose life, liberty, safety, health, and other fundamental rights are at risk in the country of asylum, a durable solution for larger numbers or group of refugees, and a mechanism for burden and responsibility sharing among states. Bangladesh is not a signatory state of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its protocol of 1967. Moreover, Bangladesh has not created any particular domestic law in regard to refugees. So, there is no obligation upon the government of Bangladesh that how they deal with the refugee situation.
Apart from this, the customary principle of ‘non- refoulement’ is also functioning here and because of this, Bangladesh cannot send back refugees to their country of origin without ensuring safety and protection. Moreover, Bangladesh is a member of URHR and also a member of the Convention against torture (CAT). The principle of non-refoulement is not absolute in nature in the case of national security and the public order.
As a state of asylum, Bangladesh and the UNHCR should change their approach to deal with this situation. Bangladesh should take the assistance of the United Nations and consults with other friendly nations to put pressure on Myanmar government so that, they create conditions which ensure adequate security and proper rehabilitation for Rohingya refugees in Rakhine State. If the situation in Myanmar well enough for voluntary repatriation, then the Rohingya refugees will be able to return in their own country of origin. United Nations and UNHCR should keep their eyes open and also adopt a continuous monitoring and evaluation system to maintain the security in rehabilitation process.
–Saaif Rasul is a student of LLB program at Department of Law and Human Rights, University of Asia Pacific.