Bangladesh for starting Rohingya repatriation before monsoon

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury | Published: 00:26, Jan 15,2021


Bangladesh would join in a trilateral meeting organised by China for an icebreaking on sending forcibly displaced Rohingya people back to Myanmar with sending the first batch before the monsoon, foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen told New Age.

‘We want to start the process of sending Rohingya people back,  preferably before the monsoon, under a bilateral mechanism set with Myanmar,’ he said at his office on Thursday.

Chinese vice minister Luo Zhaohui, Myanmar permanent secretary Aye Chan and foreign secretary Momen will hold the meeting virtually on January 19.  

Momen hoped that the Myanmar side would demonstrate flexibility to encourage Rohingya people to return to Rakhine.

It would be better for the Myanmar government to send delegations to Rohingya camps to talk directly to the potential returnees to communicate about the preparations taken so far for taking them back, Momen said, adding that it would be better to have a village-centric plan to encourage eligible people to return to their own places. 

Ensuring security for the potential returnees, freedom of their movement, livelihood opportunities and health and education facilities would be key for creating an environment for the return of Rohingyas, he said, adding that all sides should take a pragmatic approach to make the return sustainable.

The foreign secretary-led meeting is set to take place after a visit of Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi to Myanmar on January 11 as he encouraged the Myanmar side to engage with Bangladesh for starting the much-vaunted process of repatriation.

The repatriation process has remained stalled for about a year on excuses, including general elections in Myanmar and COVID-19 pandemic.

A diplomat of a country close to the Myanmar authorities said that the Myanmar government ‘is not unwilling to start the repatriation process.’

‘But a strong push involving the countries which have good relations with Myanmar would be required to start physical repatriation instead of keeping the process limited in talks only,’ said a diplomat of an east Asian country.

Foreign secretary Momen hoped that members of the international communities, including China and Japan, might play a role to support the entire process of repatriation. 

The military-controlled Myanmar government cleared only 27,640 Rohingyas in three years for taking back, rejecting about 14,400 members of the community, as the Bangladesh side has sought clearance for 8,29,036 Rohingyas so far for sending them back to Myanmar.

Some 8,60,000 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 and genocide, beginning from August 25, 2017, according to UN agencies.

Two attempts to start repatriation failed in 2018 as not a single Rohingya expressed willingness to go back to Myanmar citing lack of conducive environment and security in Rakhine state of Myanmar.   

The latest Rohingya influx took the number of undocumented Myanmar nationals and registered refugees in Bangladesh to over 1.1 million, according to estimates by UN agencies and Bangladesh foreign ministry.

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