POST TIME: 19 August, 2019 00:00 00 AM
Rohingya repatriation may start any time: Foreign secretary

Rohingya repatriation may start any time: Foreign secretary

Foreign secretary Shahidul Haque yesterday said the repatriation process of Rohingyas to Myanmar is always on the table and may start any time. Meanwhile, Rohingya Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC) sources said they have been making preparations centring around the repatriation of the first batch of the Rohingyas on August 22 However, the foreign secretary refrained from revealing any date of repatriation when he was asked about a media report which, quoting a spokesperson of Myanmar, had said the repatriation process will begin on August 22.

“The repatriation process is always on the table. It may start at any time. It is a continuous process,” Shahidul Haque said in reply to a query of reporters at a discussion titled “Rohingya Crisis: Way Forward”. The event was oganised by Red n Green Research at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies in the capital. Foreign ministry sources said the repatriation process is likely to begin on August 22. But the date is not being revealed for strategic reasons, a source said.

Even the Commissioner of RRRC, Abul Kalam, told The Independent yesterday: “We are making preparations for the repatriation on August 22. We want to respond to the proposal obtained from the Myanmar side. We don’t want to miss any opportunity for the repatriation.”

Asked whether the Rohingyas who will be repatriated know about it, Kalam said: “Many Rohingyas already know about it. They will come to know more about it tomorrow (Monday).”  He added that they held a meeting yesterday in this regard with the local administration.

A spokesman of Myanmar’s foreign ministry told Reuters on August 15 that the repatriation of 3,540 Rohingya people would begin on August 22. After this, the foreign ministry refrained from saying anything in this regard.

Shahidul said: “Repatriation has always been one of the priority issues for Bangladesh. We have always said the most peaceful solution is the return of the Rohingya people to their homeland. We have never suggested any alternative or anything else.”  

“We will try to encourage the Rohingyas to go back to their homeland. For their own interest, they should go back to their homeland. Going back to their own homeland does not mean they are being asked to forget  the issue of justice and accountability. Justice and accountability processes have already begun. They will continue,” he also said.

“Right from the very first day, we were very clear that the Rohingyas have to go back to their homeland. We continue to pursue this as our priority area,” he added.

The return of the Rohingyas to their homeland with dignity is expected. The Bangladesh government, along with the international community, will continue to work towards this end, he added.

The foreign secretary said: “The international community has been relatively very generous in helping the Rohingyas. There has been a very strong voice among the international community.”

“The UK, the US, the European Union and Canada have done a lot in this regard. The International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court are also working to bring mass persecution in Myanmar to justice. It would be much easier for the Security Council to work on the Rohingya crisis,” he mentioned.

 “The Rohigya crisis is not easy. Our foreign office is looking at all options for resolution of the crisis. We will use every avenue open to us to resolve it,” he said.