The government has signed an agreement with the UN refugee agency to exchange information about the Rohingyas who entered the country fleeing the violence in Myanmar.
The Foreign Ministry signed the agreement with UNHCR.
As per the agreement, a combined database will be created with the information collected by the government during the biometric registration, and the data of the Rohingya families collected by UN's refugee agency.
A government official said: "Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed to include the UN refugee agency in the repatriation process of the Rohingyas.
"We wanted to sign an agreement with them [UNHCR] regarding the repatriation process. The agreement was supposed to have clauses regarding exchange of data.
"Currently, exchange of data had become very important, so we decided to sign an agreement regarding it."
Regarding the agreement related to repatriation, he said: "It is still in draft stage. We are hoping to sign it in the first week of February.
In September 2017, the government started biometric registration of the Rohingyas. Information of over 1,000,000 Rohingyas have been collected till date.
Till December 23, 2017, UNHCR collected information about 761,328 Rohingyas belonging to some 175,558 families.
They also have the list of 640,269 Rohingyas who have entered Bangladesh since August 25, 2017. These displaced Rohingyas belong to some 148,358 families.
"The government will run a campaign with the help of UN agencies to inspire the Rohingyas to return to Rakhine, " said another government official.
The official said: "If we ask them [Rohingya] whether they want to return or not, then most of them might say no.
"But if the situation in Rakhine improves, and the repatriation of the first batch becomes successful then most of them will be inspired."
Bangladesh has so far signed three agreements with Myanmar regarding the repatriation of the Rohingyas. Bangladesh has emphasized on the rights of the Rohingyas in all the three agreements.
The official said: "We want a permanent solution to the issue so that they [Rohingya] do not come back, and for that we need to ensure their security and fundamental rights."
Regarding the time needed for the repatriation, the government employee said: "The family based data will first be sent to Myanmar.
"If possible, they will scrutinize it with two months. The repatriation process will start within a month after the Myanmar government informs us about it."
"For instance, if we send a list to Myanmar today then the repatriation will start after three months," the official added.
According to the repatriation deal signed by the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar on November 23, 2017, only the Rohingyas who entered Bangladesh after 2016 will be eligible for repatriation.
At least 688,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh fleeing the violence which erupted in Myanmar on August 25, 2017, says Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
Due to similar unrest, more than 85,000 Rohingya escaped into Bangladesh in October 2016. Before the recent refugee influx, Bangladesh was already harbouring around 300,000 displaced Rohingyas.
The refugees and rights groups have accused Myanmar security forces of torture, rape, murder, arson and loot – charges the army denies. The UN has denounced the violence as ‘ethnic cleansing.’
Médecins Sans Frontières has said over 6,700 Rohingyas, including at least 730 children under the age of five, were killed in the first month of the crackdown in the northern Rakhine state.
This article was first published on banglatribune.com