Bangladesh receives record inflow $1.95bn remittances in May

Expatriate Bangladeshis have sent a record amount of remittance home in May ahead of the Eid-ul-Fitr.

They sent $1.95 billion in inward remittances to Bangladesh, a new monthly record, according to the central bank.

The previous record was set in January of this year, when the country raked in $1.59 billion in remittances.

Bangladesh Bank spokesman Sirajul Islam told bdnews24.com, “The inflow of remittances was good as it was. However, with Ramadan and Eid in mind, they (migrant Bangladeshis) are sending in more money for their loved ones. The amount of remittances has grown as a result.”

why are children of Rohingya refugees being denied a formal education?

Almost one million Rohingya refugees are living in camps in Bangladesh.

For years, government-run schools have quietly welcomed Rohingya refugee children. But recently, scores of children have been expelled.

Al Jazeera’s Tanvir Chowdhury reports from Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

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PM returns home from UK tomorrow

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to return home tomorrow wrapping up her 10-day official visit to the United Kingdom (UK). A VVIP flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines carrying the prime minister and her entourage members will depart Heathrow International Airport in London for Dhaka at 6pm (local time) today, PM’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim said yesterday.

The flight is scheduled to reach Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka in the morning on Saturday. The prime minister arrived in London on May 1 on an official visit to the UK.

PM’s Private Industry and Investment Advisor Salman F Rahman and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, among others, are accompanying the prime minister during her visit.

PM advisor plans to make Bangladesh a developed country by 2041

Development efforts inspired by the German decentralization approach are underway for the comprehensive growth of Bangladesh; Salman F Rahman is hopeful the country will achieve target by 2041

Bangladesh’s development in the last decade has been a quintessential success story, credits to the good governance, exports, and their combined impact on the economic rise during the tenure. Although going at a reasonable pace, Bangladesh is in need of a development model similar to Germany that can bring about an “inclusive, sustainable and resilient” approach, said Manmohan Prakash, the Bangladesh Director of Asia Development Bank, at a seminar on ’spreading equitable development in the country’.

Supporting this notion, Salman F Rahman, the private sector industry and investment advisor to PM Sheikh Hasina, said “Our prime minister has already mentioned that every village will be turned into a city. That’s exactly what the German model is — you are going to take away the concentration from cities …you urbanize the whole country.”

And while this is in consideration, it is important to factor in the differences between the two countries, their goals, and subsequent feasible timeline. For instance, Germany practices a decentralized approach in its industries as well as society, but it took them nearly 200 years. Embracing their style of demography and industrial development, Salman F Rahman added, “The process has already started. We have to do much faster than that (200 years). Our target is to be a developed country by 2041.”

Adoption of a decentralized model is likely to be a valuable addition to the country’s development approach. Major impact of this model will reflect on the newfangled sources of growth and thereby, leading to an increase in the economy. This comes after the fact that the model focuses on expanding small and medium enterprise financing, infrastructural development, digitalization, and empowering education – factors on which Bangladesh has been slowly progressing. However, this calls for an in-depth understanding of the model with specific plans for industrial improvement.

Furthermore, Salman F Rahman highlighted the government’s ongoing efforts of building 100 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) for better investment and employment generation. Combine this with the introduction of policy amendments, improved financial accessibility, and enhanced skill development, the government and ministries of Bangladesh could accomplish the required acceleration to achieve the envisioned global stance of a developed country.

Salman F Rahman is the elected parliamentarian from Dohar and Nawabganj constitution and also vice chairman of country’s largest private sector company, Beximco Group.


In Bangladesh, Reimagining What a Mosque Might Be

THE AMBER DENIM mosque sits at the back of a factory compound deep in the industrial sprawl north of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s frenetic capital (population: more than 18 million). Its walls are a Tetris grid of concrete blocks that recess in tiers toward open centers, like molds for tiny Aztec pyramids. Pipes left over from a plumbing job serve as pillars. Steel struts branch upward toward the 18-foot roof like the skeletons of umbrellas open against a monsoon. On a hot spring morning, the punishing deltaic sun bounces off the shallow moat that surrounds the structure, drifting over the concrete.

The mosque, completed in 2016, was the second project by the seven-year-old Dhaka firm Archeground to be built at the Amber Denim garment factory, which produces reams of fabric for the garment manufacturers that are the engine of Bangladesh’s new economy. A year earlier, the firm had constructed an open-air loom shed of bamboo, concrete and the same repurposed pipes that would be used in the prayer hall: It was an affordable prototype for humane industrial architecture in a nation plagued by deplorable, sometimes fatal working conditions. The loom shed originally contained a small prayer hall at its western end, but the weavers complained that the clacking from the looms disrupted their prayers, and so Jubair Hasan, 39, one of Archeground’s principals, approached the factory’s owner for another patch of land on which they could build a mosque. “We wanted to create a prayer space that would be connected to our climate,” Hasan says. “So there are no windows, no doors. Light comes in from all sides.” Since its completion, Hasan has encouraged the 1,500 employees who work, and in some cases live, on the compound to make their own adjustments by, say, fashioning bamboo curtains to block cold morning air in the winter. “Really, the people are making their own mosque,” he says.

Cyclone Fani Hits Bangladesh, Killing 5; Evacuations Prevent More Casualties

The most powerful storm to hit Bangladesh in years tore into the country over the weekend, uprooting trees, destroying thousands of homes and killing five people, but spared this crowded nation from worse damage.

G.M. Abdul Quader, the joint secretary of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, said the authorities had prepared aggressively for the storm, Cyclone Fani, which barreled up the Bay of Bengal with wind speeds of 120 miles per hour.

As in neighboring India, where the storm made landfall on Friday before heading northeast, in Bangladesh thousands of volunteers had woven through villages with megaphones, warning people about the impending storm’s dangers and urging them to move to shelters. Both countries also sent extensive text messages to the tens of millions of people in the cyclone’s path.

Though devastating for many farming communities, the damage was still remarkably low. Just 20 years ago, thousands of people were killed when a cyclone of similar size struck Odisha, a poor coastal Indian state that also bore the brunt of Cyclone Fani.

Since then, the authorities in India and Bangladesh, which is geographically especially prone to storms, have prepared for such natural disasters by drafting meticulous evacuation plans and building hundreds of shelters.

Apart from the five fatalities in Bangladesh, several hundred people were injured. Part of a dam crumbled in the remote coastal district of Patuakhali, flooding villages, killing cattle and destroying wells and thousands of acres of crops. On local television channels, families picked through tin shacks obliterated by the wind and rain.

Indian officials in Odisha were busy over the weekend clearing debris with power saws and trying to restore full electricity to the state. Bishnupada Sethi, the special relief commissioner, said 34 people had been killed in India, probably all by falling trees.

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Rohingya camps in Bangladesh spawn a new civil society — and political violence

It was after Mohib Ullah scored his first political victories that the death threats began in earnest. On a recent morning, the Rohingya refugee leaned back on a plastic chair in the Bangladesh camp where he lives and translated the latest warning, sent over the WhatsApp messaging app.

“Mohib Ullah is a virus of the community,” he read aloud, with a wry chuckle. “Kill him wherever he is found.”

The 44-year-old leads the largest of several community groups to emerge since more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar after a military crackdown in August 2017.

In the refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, a nascent civil society is emerging among the Rohingya, who spent decades under apartheid-like restrictions in Myanmar.

Some campaigners are seeking justice for alleged atrocities in Myanmar, a small cadre of women are raising their voices for the first time, and others are simply working to improve life in the new city of tarpaulins and bamboo that, after the latest influx, is home to more than 900,000 people.

Mohib Ullah himself was invited to Geneva last month, where he told the United Nations Human Rights Council the Rohingya want a say over their own future.

But the political awakening has been accompanied by a surge in violence, with militants and religious conservatives also vying for power, more than a dozen refugees said. They described increasing fear in the camps, where armed men have stormed shelters at night, kidnapped critics and warned women against breaking conservative Islamic norms.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which sparked the 2017 crisis with attacks on security posts, is resurgent in the camps, refugees say, alongside several other armed groups. The group is also known as Harakah al-Yaqin — the Movement of Faith.

“In the daytime, the al-Yaqin guys become normal people,” said one young woman, who like other refugees requested anonymity to speak about the group without fear of reprisals. “They mix with everyone else. But at night it’s like they have a kind of magical power.”

Dialogue and threats
Reuters conducted dozens of interviews with U.N. staffers, diplomats, Bangladeshi officials and researchers about the forces competing for influence in the world’s largest refugee settlement.

While some are hopeful the stateless Rohingya are beginning to find a political voice, there are also fears that a turn to violence threatens to make solving the refugee crisis through dialogue impossible and could bring more instability.

“Refugee camps in many parts of the world are becoming recruitment grounds for terrorists,” said Mozammel Haque, the head of Bangladesh’s Cabinet committee on law and order. “God forbid, if something like that happens, this will not only affect Bangladesh but the whole region.”

Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay did not answer calls seeking comment. Zaw Htay said during a news conference in January that Myanmar had complained to Bangladesh over what he said were ARSA bases inside Bangladesh.

The front line in the struggle for the Rohingyas’ future is the bamboo huts where refugees take shelter from the heat and dust of the camp to voice their views. In the makeshift office of his group, the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), Mohib Ullah convenes an open meeting each morning.

“We couldn’t gather more than five people in Myanmar, so when we have this kind of huge gathering it makes us very happy,” said 57-year-old Abdul Fayez, one of several dozen refugees gathered cross-legged on the floor at a recent meeting.

ARSPH made its name documenting alleged atrocities the Rohingya suffered in Myanmar. Mohib Ullah went from hut to hut to build a tally of killings, rape and arson that has been shared with international investigators.

Last year it won a victory with a campaign for the refugees to have more say in the process of issuing identity cards, calling a general strike in the camps in November that forced Bangladeshi officials and U.N. staffers to meet ARSPH leaders.

It now says its main goal is to give the Rohingya a voice in international talks on their future.

But not everyone agrees with ARSPH’s approach. Hard-liners in the camps argue for a more assertive stance in talks on the terms under which the refugees might return to Myanmar.

“We are flexible, we want to negotiate,” said a senior leader of ARSPH, who requested anonymity. “But we fear we may be harmed because of this.” ARSA was among Mohib Ullah and ARSPH’s antagonists, the leader said.

Mohib Ullah was involved in local politics back in Myanmar, drawing accusations from opponents that he worked too closely with the hated government. “If I die, I’m fine. I will give my life,” Mohib Ullah said.

Night terrors
Bangladesh security forces patrol the perimeter of the camps to stop refugees slipping out. But, especially at night, the warren-like interior is run by violent men, refugees said.

In at least some parts of the camps, those men claim affiliation to ARSA, said more than half a dozen refugees. U.N. officials and nongovernmental organization workers monitoring the group’s activities say it is unclear how many of those men are under orders from the group’s leadership. But some of them have asked wealthier refugees and shopkeepers to pay regular taxes, saying the money will be used to fight back in Myanmar, refugees said.

One refugee, who volunteers as an aid worker in the camps, said he had witnessed a kidnapping in January by men he believed to be from ARSA.

Men with wooden sticks moved swiftly into an area of the camps known as Jamtoli and took away a man who refused to attend one of the group’s meetings, he said. “They just carried him off like a goat to the slaughter.”

Reuters was unable to corroborate the incident or find out what happened to the man, but five refugees from the same area said men they knew had been involved in ARSA attacks inside Myanmar were now involved in kidnappings in Jamtoli.

Reuters was unable to reach ARSA for comment.

Researchers for Fortify Rights have also gathered testimony that ARSA had abducted at least five Rohingya refugees in recent months, the campaign group said on March 14.

A posting from a Twitter account previously used by the group called the Fortify Rights report “shallow, shoddy, and not aptly verified” and denied allegations that ARSA was involved in criminal activity.

Police have recorded an escalation in violence in the camps in recent months, said Iqbal Hossain, additional superintendent of police in Cox’s Bazar.

“So far we have not found any link to any militant groups,” said Hossain, adding there were just 992 officers policing the camps.

In response to questions about reports of ARSA involvement in the violence, the U.N. refugee agency cited police reports that found most violence and threats in the camps were carried out by “criminal elements or related to personal vendettas.”

Two U.N. officials and several researchers working regularly in the camps said ARSA was behind at least some of the violence, however, citing sources among the refugees.

‘You didn’t listen’
ARSA launched three attacks across the border in Myanmar early this year, according to state media there, and in February vowed to continue its armed campaign.

ARSA propaganda portrays the group as ethnic freedom fighters and does not emphasize a religious agenda. But some refugees and a report by an international NGO say its members, together with Islamic leaders, have promoted ultraconservative religious practices.

Four women said they had received threats for going out to work for aid groups in the camps, where many have begun doing paid work for the first time in their lives.

They said men from ARSA, backed up by religious leaders, issued the threats. Fortify Rights also said it had gathered testimony linking ARSA to the threats against women working. ARSA on Twitter denied that, insisting it “has no activities/objectives except for defending Rohingyas’ legitimate rights.”

U.N. officials and aid workers discussed the threats at a series of meetings of the “protection sector working group” in Cox’s Bazar, according to minutes.

“There is a complex combination of factors that have contributed to the threats and restrictions on women in refugee camps, which we are all seeking to address,” the U.N. refugee agency said.

Mohammed Kamruzzaman, an education sector specialist at Bangladeshi aid group BRAC, said 150 of its female teachers had stopped coming to work in late January after receiving or hearing about the “violent threats.”

One woman in her late 30s said she had received a phone call in late January telling her she must immediately quit her job at BRAC. Two nights later a group of about 10 men, dressed in black and wearing masks barged into her shelter.

“They said, ‘We told you not to go out and work, you didn’t listen,’” she said. “One of them beat me with a stick on my back.”

Another young woman, who was also threatened, summed up the divide in the camps.

“We are just doing something good for our community,” she said. “Some people support them, but many feel like us. They put superglue over our mouths.”