Bangladesh, Myanmar agree to repatriate Rohingyas

Dhaka, Jan 16 (IANS) Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed that the repatriation of Rohingya refugees on Bangladeshi territory will be completed within two years of the process beginning, the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

The agreement, adopted in Dhaka by the Joint Working Group formed to start repatriating the over 650,000 Rohingyas who have arrived in Bangladesh since August, also establishes that the repatriation will be based on considering the family as a unit, Efe news agency reported.

“The Physical Arrangement stipulates that the repatriation would be completed preferably within two years from the commencement of repatriation,” according to a statement by the Ministry.

The working group has been meeting over the last two days in Naypyidaw to discuss the return of the Rohingyas, a Muslim minority, to Myanmar — an option rejected by several human rights organisations who believe that the necessary conditions to ensure the safety of this minority on Myanmar territory are still not in place.

“Myanmar would shelter the returnees in a temporary accommodation… and expeditiously rebuild the houses for the returnees to move in there,” according to the agreement.

“Under the Physical Arrangement, Bangladesh would establish five transit camps from which returnees would be received initially in two reception centres on Myanmar side.”

Myanmar will “consider resettling the people staying at the zero line on a priority basis”, says the agreement, which explains that modalities for repatriation of orphans and children born out of “unwarranted incidence” have been incorporated in the agreement.

Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an agreement on November 23, 2017 to repatriate the Rohingyas, who have arrived in the latter country since August and whose number, according to the latest figure released by the United Nations on Monday, has risen to 655,500.

According to the agreement, the repatriation process had to start within two months of the signing of the agreement.

The crisis erupted on August 25 when the Myanmar Army launched an operation in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state — where around 1 million Rohingyas were living — in retaliation for an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group on multiple government posts.

The UN and various human rights organisations have said there is clear evidence of rights abuses in Myanmar, with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calling the Army’s operations “ethnic cleansing” and saying there were indications of a “genocide”.

Last week, the Myanmar Army acknowledged extrajudicial killings of Rohingyas, who were buried in a common grave in September.

In a study released in December, non-profit Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) said at least 6,700 Rohingyas, including 730 children aged less than five years, had been killed in Myanmar during the first month of the crisis.

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