According to the deal signed on November 23, 2017, Rohingyas would have been repatriated by January 22, 2020
Following the latest influx of the Rohingyas that began in late August, 2017, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a bilateral agreement in November that year with respect to the repatriation of the persecuted people from Rakhine bordering Bangladesh.
According to the deal signed on November 23, 2017 by the then Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, and a Myanmar minister attached with the office of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyitaw, the repatriation was supposed to begin within January 22, 2018, two months after inking the instrument.
It was also agreed by both the countries in mid January, 2018 that the repatriation would be completed within two years of the commencement – by January 22, 2020.
Subsequently, a high-powered joint working group (JWG) was established to facilitate the physical repatriation. Both sides held meetings both in Dhaka and Naypyitaw to finalize the modalities for the repatriation to commence. Two more bilateral instruments were also signed in this regard.
Despite the signing of a foreign minister-level agreement and two subsequent JWG instruments, Myanmar did not take back any of their citizens, violating the agreements in place. Naypyitaw did not even make any move to take back several thousands of Rohingyas cleared by its own authorities.
Three years have elapsed since the signing of the foreign-minster level agreement, but no moves are yet to be visible from Myanmar with regard to the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas, who had to flee their homes in Rakhine for Cox’s Bazar, to escape the unprecedented atrocities orchestrated by Myanmar’s security forces, local Buddhist goons and people from different ethnic group.
As of now, no one really knows how long it will take Myanmar to adhere to its obligations under the signed agreement. It is feared that any possibility of the return of Rohingyas to their homes is highly unlikely in the near future due to the ongoing unrest in Rakhine state.
Had Myanmar fulfilled its obligations, the Rohingya repatriations could have been complete by January 22, this year.
It is worth noting that the bilateral instruments deal with only about 740,000 Rohingya, who arrived after August 25 and about 80,000, who had crossed into Bangladesh on October 26 due to brutal military crackdown. Another estimated 2.5 to 3 million Rohingya living in Bangladesh for decades are not covered by these arrangements.
The reason for the stalled repatriation process is very simple; unwillingness of Myanmar.
The instruments signed between Dhaka and Naypyitaw state that Myanmar is responsible for creating a favorable condition for the safe, secure, and dignified return of the persecuted Rohingyas. But Myanmar has utterly failed to do that, making the Rohingyas fearful of returning to their homes. Naypyitaw also failed to live up to the repeated pledges it made at so many bilateral meetings and before international forums.
Since November 23, 2017, many developments, including two failed attempts to begin the repatriation, have taken place, but nothing could sway Myanmar from ignoring the deals it signed with Bangladesh.