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14 February, 2018 01:12:02 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 14 February, 2018 10:00:12 AM
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Govt negotiating 2nd deal to involve UNHCR

ROHINGYA REPATRIATION
HUMAYUN KABIR BHUIYAN
Govt negotiating 2nd deal to involve UNHCR

Bangladesh is continuing negotiations with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to involve the UN body in the repatriation process of about 7.5 lakh Rohingyas, who had fled their homes in Rakhine to escape from the unprecedented atrocities orchestrated by the Myanmar security forces, local Buddhist mobs and people from different ethnic groups since October 2016.

One deal has already been signed between the government and the global body on data sharing, but it appears it will take some time to conclude the second one which is much broader in nature as it will directly involve the UN refugee agency with the repatriation whenever it takes place.

According to the agreement signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar in Naypyitaw on November 23, the repatriation of these persecuted people should have begun by January 22. But, it could start due to lack of preparations on parts of both the countries and the unwillingness of the Rohingyas as Myanmar, contrary to the deal, could not create a favourable condition for the safe and secure return of the Rohingyas to their homes in Rakhine.

The Bangladesh side and also the international community want the involvement of the UNHCR in the repatriation process, government sources have told The Independent.

However, Myanmar does not want UNHCR involvement and rather it wants to involve the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC), though no public announcement has been made in this regard, they said.

The repatriation of the remaining 3.5 to 4 lakh Rohingyas living in Cox’s Bazar for decades is not under the purview of this deal.

As per the physical arrangement signed during the maiden joint working group in Naypyitaw on January 16, the repatriation should take place on family basis. However, the government does not have any data on the basis of families although it has biometrically registered more than 10 lakh (1 million) Rohingyas on individual basis.

UNHCR has a family-based database of the Rohingyas and the government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the UN refugee agency for the sharing of database, said government and UNHCR officials.

But, the database has not yet been shared, they said, adding that from the date of signing, it is to take three to four weeks to share the database.

“Yes, we signed a MoU with the Government of Bangladesh on January 26 on data sharing, Caroline Gluck, senior public information officer of UNHCR told this correspondent from Cox’s Bazar. “But, the data is yet to be shared,” she informed. “The MoU has been signed but the data is not shared with us yet. It will take some time,” said Abul Kalam, chief of Relief, Refugee and Repatriation Commission (RRRC) based in Cox’s Bazar.

The officials also informed that both the government and UNHCR are still negotiating on the signing of a second MoU, which is much broader and will feature the ways as to how the refugee agency will be involved in the repatriation process. “Nothing has been finalised yet. We are still exchanging drafts,” said a senior government official adding that no specific timeframe can be mentioned for signing the second MoU.

When pressed further, he added, “We are not talking about days rather weeks.” When contacted, UNHCR official Gluck said, “I cannot tell you any exact date of signing. But, there’s still some way to go as some technical aspects are involved.”

The officials said that the government is apparently unable to make any move to begin the repatriation without getting the database from the UNHCR and the signing of the second MoU. And, they added that even after this, the government has the ‘toughest’ challenge to persuade the Rohingyas to go back to Rakhine where violence is reportedly still on.

SR

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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