Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Australia says ‘no’ to Rohingya refugees

Sheikh Shahariar Zaman Law & Rights 

 'We used to allow Rohingya refugees to settle in Australia, but not anymore' 

Australian High Commissioner to Dhaka Greg Wilcock said his country had ceased taking Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh under its third-country settlement programme. “We used to allow Rohingya refugees to settle in Australia, but not anymore. The last time we accepted a 100 Rohingya refugees – was in 2009-2010,” 

Greg Wilcock told the Dhaka Tribune after a press briefing at his Dhaka residence yesterday. Australia ceased accepting them, as the issue of Rohingya refugees going to Australia for a third-country settlement would portray a “negative signal” to the ongoing crisis in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, he said. He, however, could not specify the current number of refugees resettled in the country.

 Bangladesh hosts thousands of Myanmar Muslims as refugees who were displaced from Rakhine by decades-long ethnic violence in the country. According to an unofficial count, about half a million Rohingyas currently live here. In the press briefing, the high commissioner also said no asylum-seeker coming by boat without a visa would be allowed in Australia anymore. “Under the new arrangement signed with Papua New Guinea (PNG) – the Regional Settlement Arrangement – all unauthorised arrivals will be sent to PNG for assessment and, if found to be refugees, they will be settled there.” Replying to queries, he said around 1,000 people tried to reach Australia by boat since July 19. 

The newcomers would be treated under the new arrangement. “The Australian government, in partnership with the PNG government, will support settlement services for those with refugee status, as safe and appropriate accommodation services are identified,” he added.