Bangladesh hands list to Myan­mar for refugee repa­tri­a­tion

to Myan­mar for refugee repa­tri­a­tion

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Sam Ja­han

Bangladesh handed over a list of more than 8,000 Ro­hingya to Myan­mar on 16 Fe­bru­ary as it moves to kick-start their repa­tri­a­tion weeks af­ter the process was halted due to lack of prepa­ra­tion.

Dhaka's home min­is­ter Asaduz­za­man Khan for­mally gave the list to his Myan­mar coun­ter­part Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Kyaw Swe af­ter of­fi­cials of the two na­tions held a meeting in the Bangladeshi cap­i­tal.

"We've to­day handed over a list of 8,032 peo­ple from 1,673 fam­i­lies to them. The (Myan­mar) del­e­ga­tion re­ceived it very cor­dially and told us they would start pro­cess­ing their repa­tri­a­tion," Khan told re­porters.

Bangladesh reached a deal with Myan­mar late last year to repa­tri­ate nearly 700,000 Ro­hingya who have fled across the bor­der since Au­gust to es­cape a bru­tal mil­i­tary crack­down. That was meant to start last month, but was de­layed by a lack of prepa­ra­tion and protests by Ro­hingya refugees, most of whom say they do not wish to re­turn with­out guar­an­tees of safety.

Khan said more than one mil­lion Ro­hingya now live in squalid camps in Bangladesh's south­east and Dhaka hoped all of them would be repa­tri­ated to Myan­mar. "We dis­cussed how would they repa­tri­ate these peo­ple. The Myan­mar del­e­ga­tion was very cor­dial about it and said they will take them back grad­u­ally," he said.

Bangladesh's refugee com­mis­sioner Abul Kalam told AFP Dhaka had al­ready started con­struc­tion of a tran­sit camp and would start build­ing an­other next week to fa­cil­i­tate the re­turn of the Ro­hingya.

This week Bangladesh's ju­nior for­eign min­is­ter said they had signed a deal to in­volve the United Na­tions in the process of re­turn­ing Ro­hingya refugees to Myan­mar. He said the gov­ern­ment was in­volv­ing the UN refugee agency so that it could not be ac­cused of send­ing any­one from the state­less Muslim mi­nor­ity back against their will.

He gave few de­tails, but said refugees would be asked to fill out repa­tri­a­tion forms in the pres­ence of UN of­fi­cials.

But Ro­hingya refugees are still en­ter­ing Bangladesh with claims of rights abuses by Bud­dhist mobs and the mil­i­tary in their na­tive Rakhine state.

Home min­is­ter Khan ac­knowl­edged peo­ple were still cross­ing the bor­der. "The (Myan­mar) del­e­ga­tion has ad­mit­ted it and told us they will try their best to stop it as soon as pos­si­ble," he said

Many Ro­hingya have lost their homes to ar­son at­tacks in their vil­lages, where wit­nesses and rights groups say en­tire Ro­hingya set­tle­ments have been burned to the ground. New ar­rivals have brought har­row­ing tales of rape, mur­der and tor­ture.

The Ro­hingya also want guar­an­tees of cit­i­zen­ship be­fore re­turn­ing to Myan­mar, which views them as il­le­gal im­mi­grants from Bangladesh even though many have been there for gen­er­a­tions.

Khan said there was no spe­cific time­frame to start the repa­tri­a­tion but he hoped it would start soon.

"No spe­cific date came for repa­tri­a­tion but they showed sin­cer­ity and are tak­ing prepa­ra­tions to take their na­tion­als back," he said

He urged Myan­mar to en­sure the refugees' re­turn was "sus­tain­able", ad­ding the Ro­hingya "may face dif­fi­cul­ties in re­set­tling back into their land".

The two sides also dis­cussed the fate of some 6,000 Ro­hingya refugees who have been stranded in no man's land on the Bangladesh-Myan­mar bor­der since Septem­ber. "They said they have started pro­cess­ing repa­tri­a­tion of those refugees liv­ing on the (bor­der's) zero line," Khan said, ad­ding Myan­mar has "re­quested" a joint meeting on their repa­tri­a­tion on Fe­bru­ary 20.

Ear­lier in the month a Myan­mar gov­ern­ment min­is­ter told refugees stranded on the bor­der that they should take up a gov­ern­ment of­fer to re­turn, warn­ing they will face "con­se­quences" if they stay where they are. A video cir­cu­lated on so­cial me­dia ap­par­ently shows Myan­mar's Deputy Min­is­ter for Home Af­fairs Aung Soe ad­dress­ing a group of refugees through a barbed wire fence a week ear­lier.

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