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Sri Lanka Army

Defenders of the Nation

30th August 2019 13:24:08 Hours

Refugee Flows, One of the Major Issues - Dr Chowdhury

Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury (Bangladesh), Former Foreign Minister of the Caretaker Government in Bangladesh from 2007 to 2009, Former Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN in New York (2001-2007), Former Ambassador to the UN and WTO in Geneva (1996-2001), Special Advisor to the Secretary General UNCTAD (2001), and Former Ambassador to Qatar (1994-1996), Former Concurrent Ambassador to Peru and Chile expressing his views on the topic ‘Managing Refugee Flows and Crisis’ in the Session 1 on the second day of the ‘Colombo Defence Seminar - 2019’ pointed out that militaries need more infrastructure and resources to tackle with the refugee flow before it is turned out to be a major catastrophe.

True or not, watching last evening’s fascinating cultural performance on stage undiscovered that there is something common between the peoples of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka with lots of similarities.

Managing refugee flows and crisis within the parameters of military readiness in contemporary security landscape in 2018 alone, a total of 70.8 million people were forcedly displaced worldwide. This was mainly due to violence, conflict and human right violations including ethnic cleansing. Now, one of the organizations in most countries involving in any refugee crisis with logistic capacities has been the military. It processes logistic capacities mostly unmatched with the governmental mechanism and its administrative machinery or in the civil society or in the aid community unsurprisingly. Therefore many countries choose to task their respective military with that responsibility. However, there have also been questions raised both in the literature and rather than circumstances when asked to be prepared for such a deployment. This is much the same way as the armed forces remain the first responders in many parts of the world in the disaster management as we have just heard. The doubts I have spoken about involvement of the military and refugee management become pertinent when troops are for an encouragement. One criticism levelled against such deployment was that it would provide greater priority and protection to their own kind or those as viewed politically. We see French in Rwanda, Americans in Haiti, Russians in Georgia, Nigerians in Liberia, Australians in East Timor and the British in Sierra Leone.

If the conflicts do not threaten or appear to threaten any significant powerful nation in term of security, economic interest or demographic transfers, potential refugees would become global despite human sufferings, he said.

Consequently Kosovo refugee issue was said to have been accorded priority over those related Sierra Leone or Liberia.

The second criticism outside military forces is that it is not seen as an impartial outfit, hence aid organizations tend to feel that that their effectiveness are compromised. Aid organizations have on occasions are known to be reluctant to accept scores of troops deployed in affected areas.

Third is that militaries are at all times set to lack technical competence to respond to the needs of refugee populations. It is often alleged that military forces are trained to provide medical care to male adults and healthy populations. Military supplies which are often limited to provide those required in combat situations seem to lack of essential requirement of emerging settings.

Such literature appears to focus on deployment which are primarily devoted to peace-keeping. Therefore they by definition peace keepers are from foreign origin. These do not apply to military which is local without preference for any group within the refugee population and specially resources for the given task of refugee management with adequate budgetary provisions for procurement in relevant medical supplies. Indeed, the military has asserts in tackling such crisis situation.

Military’s virtues of commitment and dedication and the knowledge of engineering and general medical expertise are immensely valuable to handling refugees’ crisis.

“There is of course no common template applicable to the role of Armed forces in refugee situations. In other ways there is no single kind of refugees’ issues. Sometimes, violence within the country can create a situation, in which internally Displaced Persons or IDPs that is not unlike refugee situation. Here of course the trust would be rehabilitation and ultimate integration objects in the society. One programme merit mentioned is the rehabilitation and community engagement of the programme of former Tamil insurgents in this country.

I was exposed to this by an excellent briefing in New York by General Daya Ratnayake not so long ago this was special interest to me in Singapore and special contribution.

Special contribution to the designing of a effort, indeed Singapore rehabilitation model is considered one of the world’s best model programmes that has been most structured.

The six boards of rehabilitation development in Singapore where indigenized and adapted to a very high degree in Sri Lanka is a classic development.

My younger colleague, Dr. Chulanee Attanayake yesterday described what is called the six plus community engagement i.e. Education, Vocational, Psychological creative therapies, social and cultural and family, spiritual and religious, recreations, plus the community rehabilitation as components.

In my own country, Bangladesh we are bearing the brunt of what is perhaps the most challenging refugee crisis in our parts of the world in contemporary times.

I referred to the million Rohingya refugees who had crossed frontiers to coming to Bangladesh from Myanmar. The crisis faced a huge pressure on Bangladesh. Nevertheless, on humanitarian reasons Prime Minister Hasheena negotiated their return to their home.