Rohingya Repatriation Delayed
Abdul Kaiyum, Bangladesh correspondence : Bangladesh has delayed the repatriation of Rohingya Muslim refugees to Myanmar, set to start on Tuesday, because the process of compiling and verifying the list of people to be sent back is incomplete, a senior Bangladesh official said, reports Reuters. The decision comes as tensions have risen in camps holding hundreds of thousands of refugees, some of whom are opposing their transfer back to Myanmar because of lack of security guarantees.
Myanmar agreed earlier this month to receive the Rohingya refugees at two reception centres and a temporary camp near its border with Bangladesh over a two-year period starting Tuesday. The authorities have said repatriations would be voluntary. But Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and rehabilitation commissioner, said on Monday the return would have to be delayed. He did not immediately give a new date for the repatriations to begin. “There are many things remaining,” he told Reuters by phone. “The list of people to be sent back is yet to be prepared, their verification and setting up of transit camps is remaining.” More than 655,500 Muslim Rohingya fled to Bangladesh after a crackdown by the Myanmar military in the northern part of Rakhine state in response to militant attacks on security forces on Aug. 25. The United Nations described the military operation as ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, which Myanmar denies. Myanmar said it was ready to take back the returning Rohingya. “We are ready to accept them once they come back.
On our part, the preparation is ready,” Ko Ko Naing, director general of Myanmar’s Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, told Reuters by phone. He declined to comment on whether Bangladesh had informed Myanmar about the delay. At the Palongkhali refugee camp, near the Naf river that marks the border between the two countries, a group of Rohingya leaders gathered early on Monday morning with a loudspeaker and a banner listing a set of demands for their return to Myanmar. These include security guarantees, the granting of citizenship and the group’s recognition in Myanmar’s list of ethnic minorities. The Rohingya are also asking that homes, mosques and schools that were burned down or damaged in the military operation be rebuilt. Bangladesh army officials arrived at the protest and dispersed the crowd of 300. Witnesses said they saw the army take away one of the Rohingya leaders who was holding a banner. Bangladesh army spokesman Rashedul Hasan said he had not received any information on a protest from the refugee camps this morning, but said he was trying to find out more. UNB adds: Five of Myanmar’s neighbors including Bangladesh are eager to see the progress made so far on the ground in the Rakhine Sate as Myanmar and Bangladesh are now at final stage of starting Rohingya repatriation. Bangladesh Ambassador to Yangon, along with envoys of four countries bordering Myanmar – China, India, Thailand and Laos, visited northern Rakhine couple of months ago from where thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled and took shelter in Cox’s Bazar district due to the atrocities orchestrated by security forces.
“Bangladesh wants to see that Myanmar invites them again to see the progress,” an official told UNB. He said Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali is also likely to visit the place after envoys of the five countries. Minister Ali briefed the diplomatic corps on Sunday on the recent developments on the issue of return of displaced Rohingyas to their homeland in Myanmar through bilateral arrangement of return signed between the two countries on November 23 and the subsequent agreements towards the implementation of the arrangement. After the briefing, the Foreign Minister told reporters that he suggested involving the European Union so that Ambassadors of the EU countries in Myanmar can see the progress in the Rakhine State. “We express our deep gratitude to the members of the diplomatic community for their unremitting support in handling the Rohingya influx. We want to see that they remain engaged to make the repatriation sustainable,” another official told UNB. He said the Foreign Minister urged the diplomats to continue their engagement with Myanmar for effective implementation of the return arrangements.
The Myanmar Ministry of Health and Sports said they will provide healthcare services at camps that will start scrutinising and accepting displaced persons, under an agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh, Quoting Director General of Myanmar Public Health Department Dr Tha Tun Kyaw, Myanmar Information Ministry said the ministry had already finalised its healthcare programme that will be provided at the repatriation camps. Currently, there are two repatriation camps – Taungpyoletwe camp and Ngakhuya camp. The immigration department is currently adopting repatriation procedures, while the health sector has already formed 11-member teams led by a doctor. The Hla Poe Khuang camp, which will accept returnees transferred from the two repatriation camps, already has 12-member health teams led by a doctor. Convener of technical committee on repatriation and Cox’s Bazar Rohingya Repatriation Commissioner M Abul Kalam Rohingya said repatriation will take more time to start as preparatory works are yet to finish though Myanmar side says repatriation begins on Tuesday, reports UNB Cox’s Bazar correspondent. “Rohingya repatriation will take place. It’s possible to start at any time once urgent works related to repatriation are finished,” he said. He said the repatriation of Rohingyas can no way begin from Tuesday as there are many tasks to accomplish. “Meanwhile, it’s not such a task that can start immediately.” Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali in Dhaka also said he will not tell any date but the repatriation process has already started with the signing of physical arrangement.
On January 16, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a document on ‘Physical Arrangement’ which will facilitate return of Rohingays to their homeland from Bangladesh. The ‘Physical Arrangement’ stipulates that the repatriation would be completed preferably within two years from the commencement of repatriation. Foreign Ministry officials in Dhaka said verification and return of Rohingyas will be based on considering the family as a unit and Bangladesh and Myanmar also finalised the ‘form’ for verification. The modalities for the repatriation of orphans and children born out of unwarranted incidence have been incorporated in the said arrangement. “The verification form will be distributed among all Rohingya families. The forms will be then handed over to Myanmar authority for scrutiny. Myanmar will send back the forms to Bangladesh after scrutiny,” an official told UNB indicating that the full-scale repatriation might take some time. Each Rohingya family members will have to provide a number of information including names, gender, birthplace, name of mother and father, date of birth, address in Myanmar, profession, signs, number of family members and a group family photo.
Under the ‘Physical Arrangement’ Bangladesh will establish five transit camps from which returnees would be received initially in two reception centers on Myanmar side.
Myanmar will shelter the returnees in a temporary accommodation at the Hla Pho Khung and expeditiously rebuild the houses for the returnees to move in there.