Both sides hope to start Rohingya repatriation in January

United News of Bangladesh | Published: 18:52, Dec 30,2017


Rohingya refugees who had been stranded in the ‘no-man’s land’ between Myanmar and Bangladesh walk into Palongkhali in Bangladesh’s Ukhia. — AFP file photo

Despite challenges, Bangladesh and Myanmar remain optimistic to start the repatriation of Rohingyas sometime in January following the ongoing negotiations with Myanmar bilaterally.

‘Joint Working Group (JWG) has already been formed. We hope the first meeting of the JWG will be held sometime in January (in Myanmar capital),’ State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam told UNB.

The State Minister said they are on track in terms of timeframe mentioned in the bilateral document signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar on November 23.

‘We're all upbeat. We're confident and we're hopeful. We're bilaterally engaged (with Myanmar),’ he said describing the international support that Bangladesh gained on the issue.

Meanwhile, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader on Friday mentioned about handing a list of 100,000 Rohingyas to Myanmar for sending them back to Myanmar.

Quoting Myanmar Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Dr Win Myat Aye, Myanmar media reported that they will start repatriating those families who fled from Rakhine State to Bangladesh on January 22.

Win Myat Aye said a group of 450 Hindu refugees will be allowed back across the border to Burma on January 22 as the first step in the repatriation process.

A refugee camp has been set up at Taungpyoleiwei in northwestern Rakhine State for those returning overland from Bangladesh, while a second camp has been erected in Ngakhuya, Maungdaw Township, for those returning by sea or waterways.

India recently announced a development assistance of $25 million for Myanmar's Rakhine State, from where thousands of Rohingya Muslims recently fled their homeland amid violence against them.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh has finalised a draft on the physical arrangement to begin the repatriation of Rohingyas living in Cox's Bazar district in an effective and faster way, said an official.

The National Taskforce on Implementation of Strategy on Myanmar Refugees and Undocumented Myanmar Nationals and an Inter-Ministerial Meeting were held on Thursday which discussed the repatriation issue.

Around 1 million Rohingyas are now living in Bangladesh, including 655000 new arrivals since August 25, officials said.

The physical arrangement will have the detail guideline for repatriation and rehabilitation of Rohingyas who fled Myanmar and took shelter in Bangladesh amid persecution which the UN, US and other bodies termed 'classic example of ethnic cleansing'.

As per the agreement signed on November 23, Myanmar has agreed to take necessary measures to halt the outflow of its residents to Bangladesh, to restore normalcy in Rakhine and encourage those who had left Myanmar to return voluntarily and safely to their own homeland and original places of residence or to a safe and secure place nearest to it of their choice.

Under the agreement, Myanmar will take back those people, who entered Bangladesh after October 9 last year and August 25 this year.

The repatriation of those who took shelter in Bangladesh before October 9 last year would also be considered separately after the conclusion of the present arrangement, the minister told journalists.

Officials said the government has prepared a database containing the names of 850,000 Rohingyas who took shelter in Bangladesh.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told the Security Council recently that the origins and solutions to the Rohingya crisis rest in Myanmar.

‘The repatriation and reconciliation policies will fail without the accountability and non-discriminatory rule of law and public safety measures to address the fears and distrust among communities in Rakhine,’ he emphasised.

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