POST TIME: 22 August, 2019 00:00 00 AM
Rohingya repatriation
All set, yet uncertain

All set, yet uncertain

Though the authorities are ready to start the Rohingya repatriation process today, the matter is still uncertain as they have not been able to get any concrete statement from the displaced people during their interview regarding their voluntary return. Hence, uncertainty is looming large, because the Rohingya people are not satisfied with the assurances of the authorities from both sides about their security and citizenship rights.

Representatives of the United Nations refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) said they had made preparations for repatriation through the Ghumdhum border at Naikhanchhari and Karuntali of the Teknaf border.

Representatives said if the Rohingya people, whose names are in the list of repatriation, come to these two points, they would be sent to back home in Myanmar.

But many of these displaced Rohingya people, preferring anonymity, said they are not satisfied with the assurances of the authorities. They said they first wanted full protection and citizenship rights from the Myanmar government before repatriation.

Some of the Rohingyas, preferring anonymity, even said they have told the UNHCR representatives that they would go back if they got assurances that their other relatives who are still in Myanmar were in a secure position and in the process of getting citizenship rights.

Meanwhile, UNHCR representatives held interviews of 225 families of Rohingya in the last two days in Cox’s Bazar to get their opinions on whether they would like to go back. On Tuesday, they had held interviews of 21 families, but none of them agreed to return.

Bangladesh and UNHCR have started working on the repatriation process for August 22 as they have got assurances from the Myanmar government that it wants to take back 3,850 Rohingya people of 1,037 families.

Meanwhile, foreign minister AK Abdul Momen on Tuesday told journalists at his office, “Myanmar has told us that they are fully prepared for the repatriation. We are also fully prepared. They have sent us a list of 3,450 Rohingyas for repatriation. We have given them a list of 50,000.”

He even said some Rohingya leaders and some international and local NGOs are instigating the Rohingya people not to go back.

This is the second attempt at the repatriation process, scheduled to start today (Thursday), but still the authorities are

concerned as they do not know whether the listed Rohingya people want to go back voluntarily.

The first attempt at repatriation was taken on 15 November 2018. But the exercise was halted because the Rohingyas refused to go back, expressing doubts about their safety and dignified return.

However, during the recent visit of a Myanmarese delegation to Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, the team assured them that they would be given citizenship under the Myanmar Citizenship Act, 1982, with some conditions. But the Rohingyas were not happy.

RRRC commissioner Abul Kalam told The Independent yesterday: “We have taken interviews of 225 families in the last two days. Now it will be uploaded into the system.”

“We have all sorts of preparations, including logistic support, for conducting the repatriation today,” he added.

Asked about how much optimistic they are about the repatriation, he said, “Right now, nothing can be said. It all depends on the Rohingya people—whether they want to go—as it has to be on a voluntary basis.”

“We would be able to know the progress of the Rohingya repatriation tonight (Wednesday). But we are ready for the repatriation,” he added. Now all are waiting to see whether this second attempt materialises.

However, earlier foreign minister AK Abdul Momen had said he was optimistic about the repatriation, to be begun before September, before the United Nations General Assembly starts. Over 1.1 million Rohingyas are currently staying in cramped camps at Cox’s Bazar. The influx began on August 25, 2017.