The details of the “physical arrangement” to repatriate the Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh in the face of a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar will be finalized on January 15.
The first meeting of the joint working group will also be held on that day, where Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque and Myanmar’s Permanent Secretary U Myint Thu will lead the two sides.
The joint working group was formed on December 19 under the terms of the first Rohingya repatriation agreement signed by the two countries on November 23.
More than 650,000 Rohingya have escaped to Bangladesh from Rakhine state of Myanmar since August 25 last year. The process to implement their repatriation will start after finalizing the physical arrangement.
Bangladesh has already been hosting an estimated 400,000 Rohingya who had fled from Myanmar at different times in the past, but these are not included in the current deal.
Physical arrangement agreement
A government official in Dhaka said the November 23 agreement was at the policy-making level.
“It did not detail minor issues,” he said. “This physical arrangement agreement will have those small details.”
These include detailing the process to scrutinize the Rohingya, when and on which days of the week they will be repatriated, what sort of vehicle will be used for their transport, their logistics, who will greet them, the method through which the two governments will maintain contact among themselves.
When asked if the repatriation would start as per the agreement, the official said: “We are pushing for a sustainable repatriation, so that those sent back do not come back.
“If the environment in Rakhine is at that level, then it will be possible to start repatriation from January 23.”
Meanwhile, a Myanmar minister has announced that Hindus will be the first among the refugees to be repatriated.
This position was downplayed by a government official in Dhaka, however. “Hindus will be among the first batch of the repatriated Rohingya, but it does not seem that the repatriation will start with them,” he said.
More than 500 Hindus also escaped to Bangladesh to save their lives during the latest exodus.
State-sponsored discrimination against the majority-Muslim Rohingya ethnic group, which is not recognized by Myanmar, stretches back decades. Many of them are forced to live in squalid camps in apartheid-like conditions.
Rights groups and members of the minority who fled to Bangladesh have accused the Myanmar security forces of rape, murder, arson, torture and looting, while the UN dubbed the crackdown a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
Naypyidaw denies all such claims.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune