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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 288
September 22, 2012

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Law Event

Urge to facilitate better protection for the refugees

Mahdy Hassan


Empowerment through the Law of the Common People (ELCOP) a research and advocacy NGO, commissioned by the National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh organized a whole day training program on refugee laws and issues at National Planning Development Centre, Nilkhet, Dhaka in 1st September 2012 and two days long training program in Cox's Bazar in September 12 and 13. "The program aims to sensitize the participants on refugees' rights and international human rights mechanism for their protection," said Dr. Mizanur Rahman, Chairman, National Human Rights Commission Bangladesh in the inaugural session of the program held in 1st September 2012. The agenda of the training included basic understanding of human rights, correlation between human rights law and refugee law, understanding of persecution, asylum, correlation of refugee law and human rights law, refugees' rights within the Constitution and laws of Bangladesh, conceptual background of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) and stateless persons, international legal and institutional mechanism to protect IDPs, UNHCR's role in refugee protection, administration of justice in refugee camps in Bangladesh, identity crisis and legal status of Biharis in Bangladesh, accession to the Refugee Convention, and Bangladeshi refugees in India in 1971 and leasons for today. The total participants of the 3 days training program were 75 from RAB, Police, BJB, Cost Guard and lawyers.

Dr. Rahman said that we could not forget about our responsibility towards refugees. International Community is pressurizing us continuously. Moreover, we have to think about that if India would not accept us in 1971 what would have been our condition! Although, in 1971, India did not sign the Refugee convention, they accepted us considering the universal humanity. Therefore, sometime law is immaterial. We have to think beyond law. We hope that after doing our respective job when we meet with refugees, our mind will be filled up with humanity. "We have to create a human rights culture situation in the country and for that we are working continuously for the protection and promotion of human rights" said Dr. Rahmat Ullah, Executive Director, ELCOP while addressing the closing and certificate awarding program of the training. He discussed about the concept of human rights in the training program. Recommending for accession to the Refugee Convention, Assistant Professor of Law, Jagannath University, SM Masum Billah, said that Bangladesh has been hosting refugees and extending assistance to them for a long time, however did not sign the relevant instruments. "Likely, the government does not want to go under any legal obligation, which is not a right standing," opined SM Mausm Billah. He observed that Bangladesh has already become a party to major international human rights instruments, which obliged it to the protection of refugees' rights anyway. So, no logic sustains here not to be a party to the Refugee Convention. Underscoring the need for a legal regime and institutional mechanism for refugee status determination (RSD) by the government of Bangladesh, he mentioned that this would facilitate an effective protection for the refugees and identification of illegal immigrants in the country. Referring to the Rohingyas from Myanmar, he said that due to absence of a registration mechanism, there is no authentic data on the Rohingya and other foreigners staying in Bangladesh illegally. A significant number of the Rohingyas, got de facto citizenship here. Mr. Shafiqur Rahman Khan, Director, ELCOP discussed the origin and development of human rights and refugee law and their correlation.

On the last day in 15 September, there was a panel discussion on "Protection of Refugees: Role of the Host Country, UNHCR and the International Community. Ms. Olga Narymsky, Protection Officer and Istiaque Ahmed, Senior Protection Assistant, UNHCR took sessions over the issue. The recommendations of different presentations during the three days included: Bangladesh's accession to the Refugee Convention and it's Protocol, adoption of comprehensive national legal framework on refugees, policy on the Rohingyas in Bangladesh, national authority for refugee issues, proper training for government officials and NGO workers dealing with refugees, better and humane treatment for recognized refugees, judicial and legal activism to set up a legal regime, involvement of NGOs and civil society in refugee operations, active role of international community for find out durable solution for the Rohingya problem including their repatriation, effective initiatives of the government of Myanmar and Bangladesh, and continued international support for care and maintenance of refugees in Bangladesh. Selim Md. Jahangir, SP, Cox's Bazar and Lt. Col. Khalequzzaman PSC awarded certificates on different occasions.

The writer is a Student of Law, University of Dhaka.


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