Rohingya blame game: efforts to help refugees return home being sabotaged, Bangladesh PM says
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- The prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, accuses aid organizations and Myanmar authorities of trying to sabotage efforts to repatriate the Rohingya.
- People in a Vancouver neighbourhood who are hooked on heroin say a health clinic's unorthodox approach to treating them has saved their lives.
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Repatriating the Rohingya
The prime minister of Bangladesh says that authorities in Myanmar and international aid groups are both actively trying to prevent Rohingya refugees from ever returning home.
"The problem lies with Myanmar, as they don't want to take back the Rohingyas by any means," Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told a press conference yesterday, voicing her frustrations over the slow pace of repatriations since the two nations signed an agreement last November.
More than 900,000 people who fled the Myanmar military's coordinated campaign of murder, rape and arson in Rahkine state in the fall of 2017 remain stuck in overcrowded refugee camps in the Cox's Bazar region of Bangladesh. Only a select few have agreed to go back home, citing fears of further persecution.
But Hasina says aid organizations are also trying to sabotage the repatriation efforts by encouraging Rohingya to protest the plan.
"Who instigated the movement?," she asked reporters. "The problem that I now see is that different international agencies that are providing voluntary services or working at Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar never want any refugee to go back."
Hasina's comments come in the wake of a leaked assessment report from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that appeared to be trying to lay the blame for the failure of the repatriation deal on Bangladeshi bureaucracy. The draft report, first obtained by AFP, gave Myanmar high marks for its "smooth and orderly" plans to house returnees in barbed-wire-encircled temporary camps under armed guard, and discounted curfews and travel restrictions in Rakhine state as "short-term inconveniences."
The report also raised the ire of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, who are accusing the ASEAN and the United Nations of conspiring to move them back into the danger zone without proper consultations or safeguards.
"What will ASEAN and Myanmar do to stop [security] forces from continuing the genocide against Rohingyas when we return home?," a refugee group said in a news release. "They do not consider us as human beings with rights and dignity."
The situation within the refugee camps — now the largest such complex in the world — remains dire. An ongoing diphtheria outbreak has sickened more than 8,600 people and killed 45, and there are fears that other infectious diseases might spread.
There is little access to education, and human traffickers continue to prey on Rohingya desperation. Last month, Bangladeshi police rescued 23 teenage girls who were being shipped to Malaysia where they had been promised jobs, but were probably destined for the sex trade.
And the return of the monsoon season has again raised fears of flash flooding and landslides in the overcrowded camps.
But there are few indications that the "purgatory of international inaction," as the UN's Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar has described the situation, is about to end.
At the beginning of the month the UN quietly gave the Myanmar government another year to establish a framework for the voluntary repatriation of the Rohingya.
And despite the International Criminal Court's continued probe into possible war crimes charges against Myanmar's generals, there's no evidence that they are feeling the heat.
In late May, it was disclosed that authorities in Myanmar had freed seven soldiers who were convicted of massacring Rohingya civilians, after they had served less than a year of their 10-year sentences.
The two Reuters journalists who exposed the details of the crime to the world served 16 months in a Myanmar prison.
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People in a Vancouver neighbourhood who are hooked on heroin say a health clinic's unorthodox approach to treating them has saved their lives, reporter Nick Purdon writes.
The first thing you notice when you walk the streets of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside with Kurt Lock is that pretty much everyone knows him.
He explains that when you're the guy who can get people free heroin, it does wonders for your popularity.
Lock is the research coordinator at the Crosstown Clinic, the only one in the country that prescribes diacetylmorphine — the medical term for heroin.
Twice a day, the 140 chronic long-time opioid users who visit the clinic are given a syringe of the drug — for each of them, other treatments such as methadone haven't worked.
"There's an overdose crisis going on in Canada," Lock says. And then he hits me with a statistic that brings home what he's talking about.
There have been so many opioid-related deaths in British Columbia that the average life expectancy in the province is going down.
Think about that for a moment.
As for the 140 spots at the Crosstown Clinic where he works, they're "a drop in the bucket." Lock says to meet demand, five more clinics would have to be opened.
But as we keep walking, I can't help but wonder — is it really a solution to expand a program that gives out free heroin and doesn't push people to quit? After all, isn't heroin a poison?
Lock shakes his head.
"If you have a clean, regulated supply, the drug itself it's not harmful for you," he says.
"I won't say it is good for you, but someone could live to be 100 years old and use heroin every day if it's not tainted with any contaminants."
Lock says the idea of the clinic is to attract users by providing them with heroin so they don't have to turn to potentially tainted street drugs, and then once they are in a health care setting, address the issues that led to their addiction in the first place.
Watch the documentary about Vancouver's Crosstown Clinic and meet the people running and using it in the coming days on The National.
- Nick Purdon
A few words on ...
Living in the moment.
“You can’t beat that question,” Raptors star Kyle Lowry left speechless by <a href="https://twitter.com/CBCKidsNews?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CBCKidsNews</a> reporter Arjun Ram’s question. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TheMoment?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TheMoment</a> <a href="https://t.co/DvoTwCXtcR">pic.twitter.com/DvoTwCXtcR</a>—@CBCTheNational
Quote of the moment
"The instrument that generated the most reactions was the Indian snake charmers' flute. Very agitated children calmed down almost instantly, their attention was drawn to the music."
- University of Geneva researcher Lara Lordier explains a new study that found that specially composed music can help reduce the stress levels of premature babies and improve their brain development.
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Today in history
June 10, 2003: Gay marriage legalized in Ontario
Four years after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that any provincial law that denied equal benefits to same-sex couples was unconstitutional, and 11 months after a lower court recognized same-sex marriage, the weddings finally started in Ontario. Michael Stark and Michael Leshner, who were a central part of the court challenge, were the first — tying the knot after 22 years as a couple and celebrating with champagne.
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