UN Refugee Agency started on Tuesday assessment of the voluntariness of prospective returnees among the Rohingyas to Myanmar as the repatriation was supposed to begin Thursday.
‘The UNHCR talked to 11 Rohingya families today to assess their intent on going back to Rakhine,’ refugee relief and repatriation commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam in Cox’s Bazar said on Tuesday, adding that the UNHCR would talk to another 19 families on Wednesday.
The families which would agree to go back to Rakhine would be taken to the transfer camps on the Bangladesh side, a senior government official said, adding, ‘We want to send the first batch on Thursday morning.’
The first batch is likely to be handed over to a joint team of the Myanmar government and the UNHRC officials through the Gundum-Buthidong land route, in Bangladesh and Myanmar respectively, along the border, officials have told New Age.
When asked about how many people might go in the first batch, an official said the government was not concerned about the number. ‘We just want to start.’
The government had a plan to select several dozens of prospective returnees for the first batch from the 2,260 persons, including 66 Myanmar citizens and about 400 members of Hindu community, of 485 families cleared by the Myanmar authorities to begin the repatriation.
Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed on October 30 to begin the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees to their homeland Rakhine by mid-November.
The returnees would be kept for 2/3 days in the transit camps near their respective township, Myanmar officials said in Cox’s Bazar on October 31.
The returnees were likely to be given national verification card initially for identification, they said.
Bangladesh reiterated on Tuesday its call for sustaining the international pressure on Myanmar for the safe and dignified repatriation of the Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh to escape atrocities.
‘A continued and sustained international pressure on Myanmar will be catalyst for a long-term solution to one of the worst humanitarian crisis created by Myanmar forcing Bangladesh to bear its brunt,’ Bangladesh high commissioner to India Syed Muazzem Ali said on Tuesday in New Delhi, according to United News of Bangladesh.
On the possibility of starting return on Thursday, he said, ‘It’s a token repatriation and it’ll be a test case for Myanmar.’
He made the remark while briefing more than 60 diplomats representing their New Delhi-based missions concurrently accredited to Bangladesh.
The hour-long briefing session was held to update the diplomats on the latest development in Rohingya crisis and to seek support for the OIC and EU resolution entitled ‘Human Right Situation in Myanmar’ tabled at the 3rd committee of the UN General Assembly.
The Myanmar side has cleared in 19 phases a list of 4,600 people, out of the first list of 8,032 persons presented by Bangladesh side on February 16 this year, for return. Several dozens of them were officially Myanmar citizens.
Bangladesh handed over another list of 22,432 forcibly displaced Rohingyas to Myanmar authorities for scrutiny to take them back to Rakhine State.
More than 7,00,000 Rohingyas, mostly women, children and aged people, entered Bangladesh after fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape during ‘security operations’ by Myanmar military in Rakhine, what the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing and genocide, beginning from August 25, 2017.
The ongoing Rohingya influx took the number of undocumented Myanmar nationals and registered refugees in Bangladesh to about 11,16,000, according to estimates by UN agencies and Bangladesh foreign ministry.
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