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Foreign minister on Rohingya repatriation: Won't do anything by force

  • Published at 08:43 pm August 22nd, 2019
Several Rohingya men on their way to the office of the camp-in-charge of Camp No 26, Shalbagan, Teknaf for an interview with UNHCR and RRRC representatives on August 21, 2019 Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Steps to be taken against those discouraging Rohingyas, he says

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has said Bangladesh does not want to do anything by force and laid emphasis on eliminating the lack of trust among Rohingyas who refused to return to their homeland.

"It’s regrettable… what else you can do?" the minister said while talking to a small group of reporters at his office in Dhaka on Thursday.

Momen said there was a trust-deficit among Rohingyas and reiterated Bangladesh's call to take 100 "majhis" or Rohingya leaders to Rakhine State, and show them what measures and arrangements were taken to welcome Rohingyas to their own homes as they feared about their safety and security.

Responding to a question about Rohingyas' demands, the foreign minister said they cannot be hostage to their demands. 

"They (Rohingya) need to realize their demands by going back to their homes." 

Momen said they were hoping that the repatriation would begin Thursday, at least on a small scale, but it was yet to begin.

"We are still waiting with a high hope. Myanmar has created the problem and solution lies there, too. We do not want to do anything by force," he said adding that representatives of Myanmar, China and Bangladesh governments were present there.

Responding to another question, Momen said they would identify those distributing leaflets, supplying English-written signboards and carrying out campaigns encouraging Rohingyas not to return to Myanmar. "We are identifying them," he said adding that steps would be taken.

No Rohingya turn up for repatriation

Despite all the preparations, no Rohingya turned up on Thursday to avail of the "voluntary" repatriation offer given to them to go back to their place of origin in Rakhine State of Myanmar prompting the authorities to suspend the repatriation process for the day.

Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas and most of them entered the country from August 25, 2017 onwards. The two countries signed a repatriation deal on November 23, 2017, but there has been little progress.

On July 29, Bangladesh handed a fresh list of 25,000 Rohingyas from around 6,000 families to Myanmar for verification before their repatriation to Rakhine.

With the latest list, Bangladesh has so far handed the names of around 55,000 Rohingyas to the Myanmar authorities and around 8,000 of them have been verified. Myanmar only cleared 3,450 Rohingyas for beginning the repatriation.

On January 16, 2018 Bangladesh and Myanmar inked a document on "Physical Arrangement", which was supposed to facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland.

The "Physical Arrangement" stipulates that the repatriation will be completed preferably within two years from the start.

The first batch of Rohingyas was scheduled to return on November 15 last year but it was halted amid the unwillingness of Rohingyas to go back for lack of a congenial environment in Rakhine.

On August 20, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said both Bangladesh and Myanmar were "fully ready" to resume the repatriation of Rohingyas to their homeland but some Rohingya leaders and NGOs were reportedly discouraging them to return.

"We have heard some Rohingya leaders emerged there. They do not want the return of any Rohingya (to their homeland). They are trying to stop returnees. Some INGOs and NGOs are instigating them (Rohingyas)," he told a small group of reporters at his office.

He said Bangladesh wanted to see Rohingyas' return to Rakhine as soon as possible.