The first meeting of the joint working group to finalize the ‘physical arrangement’ for the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees will take place on January 15.
But the government is yet to prepare a list of 100,000 refugees who will be sent home in the first batch. This has triggered fears of delaying the repatriation.
Sources say it will not be possible to start the repatriation process without the list.
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“We are reviewing the situation,” said Cox’s Bazar Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC) Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam. “The Rohingya registration process is going on with everyone’s assistance.
“We are having trouble preparing the list as their registration process is not family-based.”
More than 650,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh since late August last year in the face of a brutal military campaign in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. They joined an estimated 400,000 Rohingya who had been staying in Bangladesh.
Sources say the first list of 100,000 Rohingya will be family-based, which means it will contain names of their parents, children and other related information.
Until Thursday, more than 971,000 Rohingya, including those who have been staying in Bangladesh for years, were registered. They have been registered together, not separately.
Kalam, replying to a query, said he was not sure how long it would take to prepare the first list.
About the first meeting of the joint working committee, he said, “It is an introductory episode. We will be able to understand how we will need to prepare.”
A member of the RRRC joint working group said: “The repatriation will start will after both countries reach a consensus.”
A government official in Dhaka said that before the beginning of the repatriation process, Myanmar would scrutinize whether those being sent back are its citizens. “But if we fail to provide names and other information, how will they (Myanmar) scrutinize?”
But another government official said: “We want to make the first list clean so that the scrutiny process does not have any complication. It must be prepared to start the repatriation process as soon as possible.”
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an ‘arrangement’ on November 23 last year to send back the Rohingya refugees. A joint working group was formed on December 19 to supervise the repatriation process.
The group’s first meeting will be held on January 15 when foreign ministers of the two countries will sign a ‘physical arrangement’ agreement to work at the field-level for repatriation.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune