Bangladesh has finalized the draft of the physical arrangement agreement for the repatriation of the Rohingyas, which is likely to be handed over to Myanmar next week.
Dhaka is also working swiftly to hand over the first list of the Rohingyas for scrutiny.
Two important meetings, presided over by the foreign secretary, were held in Dhaka on Thursday.
The first one was the meeting of the national task force on the Rohingyas and the second one was an inter-ministerial meeting to decide future work plan.
Sources say the draft was finalized in these meetings.
An official, who was present at the meetings, said: “Bangladesh today (Thursday) finalized the draft of the physical arrangement agreement. We hope to send it to Myanmar next week for Nay Pyi Taw’s consideration.”
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“Bangladesh will try to finalize it at the first meeting of the joint working group,” the official said, adding that the date for the maiden meeting was yet to be fixed.
Dhaka has urged Nay Pyi Taw to hold the meeting quickly.
Once both countries finalize the arrangement, the documentation process for sending back the Rohingyas will be completed. Implementation will come next.
The neighbours signed an arrangement on November 23 to repatriate members of the Rohingya minority who have fled to Bangladesh to save their lives.
Both countries finalized and signed the terms of reference for the joint working group on December 19. Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali signed the first one while Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque signed the second one.
List of the Rohingyas
Bangladesh has already biometrically registered more than 900,000 Rohingyas who are staying in Bangladesh. More are expected to be registered in the coming days.
The government is initially preparing a list of 100,000 of Rohingyas to send them back. Foreign Ministry sources said Rohingyas with families would be first included in the list for easy scrutiny.
An official, involved with the process, said the government did not want to include names of any Rohingya in the first list that may take time to scrutinize.
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“We hope that it will be possible to start the process smoothly,” the official said.
Most of the Rohingyas do not have any documents to prove their residency in the Rakhine state. In that case, their addresses and other information will be provided for cross-checking.
According to the arrangement signed on November 23, both countries will hold talks if there are disagreements during the scrutiny but Myanmar will take the decision.
More than 650,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh since late August after Myanmar launched a massive ‘clearance operation’ targeting the minority after militants attacked 30 police posts and an army base on August 24.
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 Bangla Tribune