Dhaka, Friday   22 March 2019

First batch of Rohingya repatriation ‘to be a test case’

 Staff Correspondent :: staff-correspondent

 Published: 09:00 PM, 3 November 2018   Updated: 09:00 PM, 3 November 2018

File Photo

File Photo

The first batch of Rohingya repatriation will be a test case to know how Myanmar treats them after their return to the place of origin as the repatriation preparation begins between Bangladesh and Myanmar targeting November 15.

"The first batch of Rohingya repatriation will be a test case," a diplomatic source told UNB adding that it can be known how they are treated in Myanmar after their return as Myanmar assured all of their safety and security with confidence-building measures.

"The international community will also be able to assess the situation. If the repatriation doesn't start, you can't say anything," he added.

An official involved in the repatriation process said Bangladesh and the international community need to know the "ground reality" and the repatriation needs to be started.

Another diplomatic source said some are trying to give an impression that Bangladesh has taken it as a "business venture" and Bangladesh does not want the repatriation of Rohingyas. "This is absolutely wrong."

Earlier, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to begin the first batch of repatriation in mid-November and a list of 2,260 Rohingyas, including 450 Hindus of 485 families, has been handed over to the Myanmar side.

Diplomatic sources said a total of 450 Hindus are willing to go back and 66 of them have valid documents who do not need any further verification.

Bangladesh also has handed over a new list of 22,432 Rohingyas to Myanmar side during the last joint working group meeting between the two countries.

The government on Saturday trashed the reports of a section of media that Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to begin the repatriation of Rohingyas from mid-November saying it is absolutely wrong.

"It's not true (that UNHCR was not consulted or informed). We informed them on the same day we shared the list with Myanmar, almost back to back. A written request was also sent. I don't see any gap," said Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque.

Director General (UN wing) at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nahida Sobhan had a meeting with UNHCR Bangladesh on Saturday to discuss the issue and wanted to know the reason behind the gap between Dhaka and New York on the issue.

Spokesman for the UN Secretary General Stephane Dujarric at a media briefing in New York said, "To be clear, we've seen the reports of the agreement between... the decisions reached by the joint Working Group between Bangladesh and Myanmar. UNHCR, which is in lead on the issues of refugees, was not consulted on this matter."

Bangladesh first handed over the list to Myanmar Ambassador in Dhaka U Lwin Oo on October 28 and the UNHCR was also informed on the same day to take preparation.

Asked why UN claimed that UNHCR was not consulted, a diplomatic source said, "This is a blatant lie. From the very beginning, a few people within the UN are trying to make the repatriation process questionable. That might be one of the reasons behind it or there's a gap between New York and Dhaka (offices of UN agencies)."

Asked about specific date of beginning the first batch repatriation, Foreign Secretary Haque said both sides are looking for November 15 as actual repatriation needs to start as per the arrangement signed between the two countries, within two weeks of submitting a list.

A diplomatic source in Yangon said China is putting pressure on Myanmar to take back their nationals from Bangladesh as soon as possible. "And Myanmar is behaving very positively so far. Let's see what happens."

Earlier, India welcomed the decision taken by Bangladesh and Myanmar to start the repatriation of Rohingyas, who belong to the Rakhine state, in mid-November.

"We welcome the agreement which was reached between the Foreign Secretaries of Bangladesh and Myanmar," said spokesperson of Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Raveesh Kumar.

Permanent Secretary of Myanmar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Myint Thu said they have verified about 5,000 Rohingyas.

"Once the movement of people starts, I think, it's a good beginning. We hope this process can gather momentum as confidence grows in the environment in Rakhine state for the safe, speedy and sustainable return of the displaced people," said the MEA spokesperson in a media briefing in New Delhi on Thursday.

And this is something which they said in the past as well that they are in favour of safe, speedy and sustainable return of the displaced people from Bangladesh to Myanmar, he explained.

"I think it's important also to note that India has been working both in Bangladesh to provide humanitarian aid to meet the needs of the displaced and Myanmar to create the conditions so the people who are being repatriated back to Myanmar, they get proper socioeconomic conditions for a favourable return to the place where they belong to," said Raveesh Kumar.

The joint working group members from both sides, including Foreign Secretary Haque, visited Rohingya camps on Wednesday and talked to Rohingya representatives.

Rohingyas, however, said they will not go back to their place of origin in Rakhine if their basic rights, including citizenship and housing facilities, are not provided.

Bangladesh and Myanmar formed the Joint Working Group (JWG) in December 2017 to start the repatriation of around 900,000 Rohingyas who fled a brutal military crackdown in August 2017.

Daily Bangladesh/Sohug