• Thursday, Oct 01, 2020
  • Last Update : 05:49 pm

Bangladesh, Myanmar to start Rohingya repatriation by mid-Nov

  • Published at 02:53 pm October 30th, 2018
Rohingya refugees arrive in Bangladesh, September 2017Syed Zakir Hossain
File photo: More than 700,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar’s Rakhine State since late August of 2017 after the security forces launched a brutal crackdown on the ethnic minority Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

JWG members to visit Rohingya camps Wednesday

Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed to start repatriating the first group of Rohingyas by mid-November.

“We are looking forward to starting the repatriation of the first batch by mid-November,” announced Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque following the meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) on the repatriation of verified Rohingyas on Tuesday, reports UNB.

The third foreign secretary-level JWG meeting, held at State guesthouse Meghna in Dhaka, was co-chaired by Permanent Secretary Myint Thu of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar and his Bangladeshi counterpart Senior Secretary M Shahidul Haque of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

They discussed the Rohingya repatriation issue in detail.

According to the report, the JWG members of both the sides will visit the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar on Wednesday and will interact with the Rohingyas.

“You will have answneers to some of your questions today,” the foreign secretary said, adding that they would encourage the Rohingyas to go back in safety and security.

Myint Thu said the group had a very friendly and candid meeting and achieved “very concrete results” on the commencement of the repatriation.

“We have demonstrated our political will, flexibility, and willingness to accommodate in order to begin the repatriation at the earliest possible dates,” he said.

In response to a question, Thu said they have streamlined multiple local directives in order to promote awareness about the repatriation among returnees.

“We are also promoting public policy,” he said, adding that they are also spreading awareness on fundamental principles so that people can access the justice system if they encounter any issues.

“A number of measures have been put in place to ensure a secure environment for their return,” said the Myanmar official.

Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque termed the meeting “very productive and constructive”, echoing that special focus was given on the return of Rohingyas.

As per Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s directives, Bangladesh is prioritizing the resolving of the Rohingya issue through peaceful discussions between the two countries.

“After much success in the endeavour, we are heading towards that end,” said Shahidul.

He also said that while Rohingya repatriation is a complex and difficult process, it is possible to bring the issue to a fruitful end if both parties work together. “Throughout the discussion, we felt that both sides have a strong political will (to start the repatriation).”

“We have completed the village-wise verification of 8,000 Rohingyas. We want to make sure they can start living in houses in their own villages,” said Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali on October 15.

The minister also mentioned that India has already built 250 houses while China is building 1,000 more. “The returnees will first stay at reception centres in Myanmar, and later go to their respective villages.”

Chinese Minister and Party Committee Secretary of the Ministry of Public Security Zhao Kezhi and Bangladeshi Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal also discussed the Rohingya issue on Friday.

The Bangladesh side sought to know China's role in the repatriation of Rohingyas.

“A tripartite meeting will be held between Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali and his Chinese and Myanmar counterparts, where the discussion will be taken further,” said Asaduzzaman.

However, he did not state the time or location of the meeting.

Similar meetings were held in New York and Beijing in the past months, mounting pressure on Myanmar.

According to Foreign ministry officials, AH Mahmood Ali, along with joint working group members visited the northern Rakhine State in August this year and witnessed the “widespread devastation” suffered by people there.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister also visited the village of Shwe Zar, where around 148 prefabricated houses for returnees are being built with assistance from the Indian government.

Bangladesh and Myanmar formed the Joint Working Group (JWG) on December 2017 to start repatriating Rohingya refugees by January 23, 2018.

After the military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state on August 25 last year, more than 700,000 Rohingyas – mostly children and women – crossed over to Bangladesh.

They joined more than 400,000 existing refugees who were already living in squalid, cramped camps in Cox’s Bazar.

In May, the JWG’s Myanmar part urged the Bangladeshi part to commence the repatriation of the prior-verified 778 Muslim and 444 Hindu Rohingyas.

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