Bangladesh, Myanmar to complete return of Rohingyas in two years

Posted January 18, 2018

The repatriation process which would begin next Tuesday was agreed at a meeting of the Joint Working Group on the return of the displaced Rohingyas from Rakhine State in Myanmar's capital Nay Pyi Taw, Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha reported, quoting an official statement.

The pact, which was decided during meetings between Bangladesh's Foreign Secretary Mohammad Shahidul Haque and Myanmar Permanent Secretary Myint Thu in Naypyidaw on Monday and Tuesday, will come into effect from January 23.

Earlier in December a year ago, Myanmar Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Dr Win Myat Aye said a group of 450 Hindu refugees will be allowed back across the border to Burma on 22 January as the first step in the repatriation process.

The deal applies to Rohingya who fled Myanmar in two major outbreaks of violence since October 2016, when militants from the stateless minority first attacked border-guard posts in northern Rakhine state. But the latest deal - like the one in 1992 - does not guarantee citizenship.

It is believed there are almost 1 million Rohingya now living in Bangladesh.

In the meantime, Myanmar will "consider resettling the people staying at the zero line on a priority basis", and reiterated its commitment to "stop outflow of Myanmar residents to Bangladesh".

Under the agreement, returnees would be received initially in Myanmar in two reception centers and be temporarily sheltered while officials rebuild the houses for them to move into.

Even if repatriation can provide safety for refugee, proving prior residency in Myanmar will be hard for the minority community who were either never issued residency documents or who lost them while fleeing the violence. After the last wave of violence in the Asian country, almost 900,000 members of that minority fled to Bangladesh in search of refuge and remain in improvised settlements.

The refugee agency for the UN, UNHCR, has been consulted to ensure that the two countries adhere to worldwide standards throughout the repatriation process, the AP reported.

The military, however, denies it was involved in any sexual assaults. He and his wife are now seeking refuge in Bangladesh's Kutupalong refugee camp. From there they will be taken to temporary accommodation at a 124-acre camp near Maungdaw township. "Please don't send us back as bait for the monster".

"We have been persecuted and brutalised there", she said.

The EU earlier co-hosted donors' conference, which took place in Geneva in October, at which the European Union pledged the leading amount of new funding, and together the EU and its Member States pledged nearly half of the overall amount.

"The potential return of 100,000 Rohingya to Myanmar without any clear understanding of their legal status, destination, or even whether they have volunteered for the return trip, is a matter of grave concern", it said.

The worldwide community and rights groups have stressed that the Myanmar government must guarantee the "safe and voluntary" return of the refugees, and urged that global organizations be allowed to participate.

Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed on a two-year timeframe for the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees.

While these considerations seem likely to delay the implementation of the repatriation process and limit the number of refugees that it involves, there is no room for complacency. It also states that the United Kingdom had been slow to act in condemnation of this treatment which has amounted to a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing". Security forces there are blamed for rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims that sparked the exodus of some 650,000 people to Bangladesh.