Dhaka, Yangon to start Rohingya repatriation by mid-Nov

Bangladesh and Myanmar on Tuesday agreed to begin the repetition of the first batch of Rohingyas by mid-November and the number is yet to be finalised.

“We’re looking forward to starting the repatriation by mid-November. This is the first batch,” Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque told reporters without giving any specific number of Rohingyas to be repatriated in the first batch.Foreign Secretary Haque made the announcement after the third Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting on the repatriation of verified Rohingyas.

The joint working group members from both sides will visit Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar on Wednesday and will have interactions with Rohingyas.“You’ll have answers on some of your questions tomorrow (Wednesday),” Foreign Secretary Haque said adding that they will meet Rohingya population and try and encourage those who have left Northern Rakhine to go back in safety and security.

The third foreign secretary-level JWG meeting, held at State guesthouse Meghna in the city, was co-chaired by Permanent Secretary Myint Thu of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar and his Bangladesh counterpart Senior Secretary M Shahidul Haque of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Myanmar Permanent Secretary Myint Thu said they had a very friendly and candid meeting and came up with the “very concrete results” on the commencement of the repatriation.

“We’ve shown our political will, flexibility, and accommodation in order to commence the repatriation at the earliest possible dates,” he said.Responding to a question, the Myanmar official said they have streamlined lots of local directives in order to promote awareness on repatriation among the returnees.

“We’re also promoting public policy which includes police personnel together with the local communities to maintain and promote law and order,” he said adding that they are also promoting awareness on the fundamental principles so that people can get access to justice system if they encounter any issue.

“We’ve put in place a number of measures to make sure there’s secure environment for their return,” said the Myanmar secretary.Foreign Secretary Haque termed the meeting very productive and constructive and special focus was given on the return of Rohingyas.

As per Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s directives, Bangladesh is giving priority to resolve the Rohingya issue through peaceful discussions between the two countries.“We’re heading towards that end. Much success has been achieved,” said the Bangladesh Foreign Secretary.

He said they always say the return of Rohingyas is a complex and difficult process and if both sides have political will it’s possible to bring the issue to a fruitful end. “Throughout the discussion, we felt that both sides have strong political will (to start the repatriation).”Both sides discussed the Rohingya repatriation issue in details as there are “intensive efforts” to begin the repatriation.

Bangladesh sought updates on what steps would be taken for the safe and sustainable return of Rohingyas to their homeland Myanmar from Bangladesh.“We’ve completed the village-wise verification of 8,000 Rohingyas to know who came from which village. 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 Foreign Minister mentioned that India has built 250 houses while China is building 1,000 more. “The returnees will first stay at reception centres in Myanmar and then will go to their villages.”Chinese Minister and Party Committee Secretary of the Ministry of Public Security Zhao Kezhi and his Bangladesh counterpart also discussed the Rohingya issue on Friday.

The Bangladesh side sought China’s role in repatriating Rohingya people from Bangladesh to their homes in Myanmar.“There’ll be a tripartite meeting among Bangladesh Foreign Minister (AH Mahmood Ali) and his Chinese and Myanmar counterparts where they will discuss the issue further,” said Minister Asaduzzaman Khan.But the Home Minister did not elaborate when and where this meeting will be held.

Similar meetings were held in New York and Beijing on the sidelines in the past months that indicate pressure on Myanmar is mounting.Minister Ali along with joint working group members in August this year visited the northern Rakhine State and saw the ‘trail of widespread devastation’ suffered by people there, said the Foreign Ministry officials.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister also visited Shwe Zar village where around 148 prefabricated houses for returnees are being built with assistance from the government of India.Bangladesh and Myanmar formed the Joint Working Group (JWG) on December 2017 to start repatriating Rohingya refugees by January 23, 2018.In May, the Myanmar side urged the Bangladesh side to start the repatriation of the earlier verified 778 Muslims and 444 Hindus.

source: UNB