The government has sought support of United Nations organisations in repatriating forcibly displaced minority Myanmar nationals to their homeland in Rakhine State, local and foreign diplomats said.
The government has also requested the UN agencies and international organisations to actively engage in providing support to the process of repatriation on both sides of the borders, especially in Rakhine State to make the return of Rohingya people sustainable.
Foreign secretary M Shahidul Haque made the requests in a meeting with the chiefs of the UN agencies and several international organisations at Gulshan in Dhaka on Wednesday evening. Chiefs of agencies, including UNDP, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, WHO, IOM or their representatives joined the meeting in the presence of senior foreign ministry officials.
Foreign ministry hosted the meeting several days ahead of holding a meeting of the Bangladesh-Myanmar joint working group on Rohingya repatriation.
At the request of representatives of the UN agencies and other international organisations, Haque informed them of the details of ‘arrangement’ signed with Myanmar on November 23, 2017, formation of the joint working group on December 19 and finalisation of the terms-of-reference of the JWG.
Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed in the November 23 ‘arrangement’ that UNHCR, other mandated UN agencies and interested international partners would be invited to take part in various stages of return and resettlement.
The two sides also agreed that the JWG ‘shall involve’ assistance of UNHCR and other mandated UN agencies and interested international partners in various stages of repatriation, according to the JWG-TOR.
The two sides, according to officials, agreed to extend cooperation in synchronising the data available through biometric registration by the government and the data available at the UN, which might help in the verification process of Rohingya.
The government also requested the organisations to ask their staff to maintain vigilance and report to the government agencies if they observe any security threat in and around Rohingya camps involving any quarter.
Haque will lead the 15-member Bangladesh side in the meeting of the 30-member JWG set to begin in Myanmar on January 15. Myanmar foreign ministry’s permanent secretary Myint Thu is expected to lead the delegation on the other side of the table.
The agreed terms-of-reference has mandated the JWG to undertake all necessary measures to start the safe and voluntary return, resettlement and reintegration process of displaced Myanmar residents as envisaged in the ‘Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State’ signed by foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali and Kyaw Tint Swe, Myanmar union minister at the State Counsellor’s Office, on November 23.
In the ‘arrangement’, the governments agreed, at the request of Myanmar, to begin repatriation of the Rohingyas who crossed over to Bangladesh from Rakhine State only after October 9, 2016.
The two countries agreed that the process of return should commence within two months from November 23.
Over 6,55,500 Rohingyas, mostly women, children and aged people, entered Bangladesh fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape during ‘security operations’ by Myanmar military in Rakhine, what the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing, between August 25 and January 7. Several international authorities denounced the operations as genocide.
The military-controlled Myanmar government has committed, according to the November 23 ‘arrangement’, to take back over 7,40,000 Rohingyas who crossed over the border since October last year.
The ongoing Rohingya influx took the total number of undocumented Myanmar nationals and registered refugees in Bangladesh to over 10,74,000 till January 7, according to estimates by UN agencies.
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