Thursday, 22nd April 2021

Intensive efforts begin for first batch of Rohingya repatriation; JWG meeting Tuesday

HT Agency

Dhaka:¬†Bangladesh and Myanmar will sit together on Tuesday to discuss the Rohingya repatriation issues as there is “intensive efforts” to begin the repatriation, at least completion of the first batch of verified Rohingya repatriation before the next national election, officials indicate.

The joint working group meeting between Bangladesh and Myanmar on Rohingya repatriation will be held here on October 30 which will discuss how the repartition will start, a senior Foreign Ministry official told UNB.

There is a chance to complete the first batch of repatriation of the verified Rohingyas before the next national election though it is difficult to predict about such a complex issue, said a diplomatic source adding that China is pushing for quick implementation of repatriation agreements between Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Visiting 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.

However, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said China always believes that the international community should play a constructive role in the Rakhine State issue, and its actions should be conducive to promoting consultation and cooperation between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Foreign Ministry officials said the Bangladesh side of joint working group is likely to discuss the broad issues on Sunday before the joint working group meeting that will be held on Tuesday in the capital city.

The joint working group members from both sides will visit Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar on October 31. “They’ll have interactions Rohingyas,” an official told UNB.

He said Bangladesh will seek updates on what steps are taken for the safe and sustainable return of Rohingyas to their homeland Myanmar from Bangladesh.

Bangladesh wants to make sure that the Rohingyas who are expected to return to Myanmar in the first batch of repatriation may have houses and other facilities to live in their own villages.

“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 n Myanmar and then will go to their villages.”

Myanmar has so far failed to take steps to ensure the safe and sustainable return of Rohingyas to their homeland.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the 73rd UN General Assembly made three recommendations for solving the Rohingya crisis at its root, including the abolition of discriminatory laws, policies and practices of Myanmar against the minority group.

According to her second recommendation, Myanmar must create an acceptable environment by building trust and guaranteeing protection, rights and pathway to citizenship for all Rohingyas. If needed, it should create a “safe zone” inside the country to protect all civilians.

Her third recommendation says atrocious crimes against Rohingyas in Myanmar should be prevented by bringing accountability and justice, particularly in the light of recommendations of the Fact-Finding Mission of the UN Human Rights Council.

Foreign Minister Ali has emphasised the need for accelerating efforts to create a conducive environment in northern Rakhine State and build houses and villages for returnees to facilitate repatriation.

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.

Meanwhile, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) Chairperson Charles Santiago (MP, Malaysia) said the Rohingya community has suffered decades of state-sponsored oppression, discrimination, and violence in Myanmar.

“It’s abundantly clear that the conditions for the Rohingyas’ safe and dignified return to their homeland are far from being met. Any initiatives to return the refugees to Myanmar must be transparent and meet international human rights standards,” Santiago said in a statement on Friday.

There has been an announcement that a team of ASEAN foreign ministers will visit Myanmar in November to assist in the repatriation process of Rohingya in Bangladesh to Myanmar:

Santiago said the Rohingya have suffered unspeakable abuses and must have a seat at the table to determine their own futures.

“Repatriation must not begin until a safe and secure environment for the voluntary return of Rohingya is put in place. This should include Myanmar’s government abolishing discriminatory state policies and practices, and guarantees that returnees will not be settled indefinitely in internally displaced persons camps,” reads the statement.

Santiago said Rohingya must also be allowed to worship freely, access education, be compensated for their loss of land and livelihood, and receive a degree of international protection so they are not left at the mercy of the Myanmar security forces.


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