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5 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Rohingya repatriation

Confusion over deadline

Myanmar declines any specific timeframe; return in two years, says Bangladesh
HUMAYUN KABIR BHUIYAN

Confusion was caused over the deadline for the completion of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas living in Cox’s Bazar as the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar are providing different versions. Following the second day of the first meeting of the Bangladesh-Myanmar Joint Working Group (JWG) for repatriation on January 15-16 that finalised the physical arrangements, foreign ministry said in a press release that the return of about 7.35 lakh Rohingyas, who had crossed into Cox’s Bazar to escape the brutalities of Myanmar security forces, local Buddhist mobs and people of other ethnic groups in Rakhine since October, 2016, will be complete in two years.

But, according to a press release posted on the Myanmar information ministry following the meeting of the JWG, no deadline has been set for the completion of the repatriation. The Foreign secretary, Shahidul Haque, leads the Bangladesh side while permanent secretary of the foreign ministry Myint Thu leads the Myanmar side of the JWG that will only deal with the repatriation of over 6.55 lakh Rohingyas who have arrived since August 25, last year and over 80,000 who had crossed the border after October, 2016. It’s not yet clear what will happen to another 3.5 to 4 lakh Rohingyas, who have been living in the country for decades.

“The Physical Arrangement stipulates that the repatriation would be completed preferably within 02 (two) years from the commencement of repatriation,” said the press release of the Bangladesh foreign ministry. “We have not set a deadline for the repatriation,” said the Myanmar information ministry release quoting Myint Thu, the head of the Myanmar part of the JWG.

When contacted, officials concerned including members of the JWG acknowledged the difference in the versions of the two governments. At the same time, they said that things will be much orderly with the days moving forward. “To be honest we did not have the physical arrangements as we wanted. But, it is very difficult to deal with Myanmar,” said a JWG member. “Our emphasis was to begin the process as soon as possible,” he said, adding, “We had to agree with the repatriation 1,500 per week”.

If 15,000 Rohingyas are repatriated in a week then the number of repatriation in two years will be 1.56 lakh, 5.8 lakh less than targeted amount of 7.35 lakh. “Yes, we are aware of the equation. Sometimes, it may not be possible to repatriate even 1,500 people every week due to many reasons including weather,” refugee, relief and repatriation commission (RRRC) chief (RRRC) Abul Kalam, who is a joint secretary to the government based in Cox’s Bazar, has told The Independent.

“We proposed to repatriate 15,000 per week and insisted on that. But, we agreed on 1,500 as we wanted to start the process as soon as possible,” he said. “It’s true we expected a much better deal than we had,” said Kalam. However, he said that the JWG will oversee the activities of the technical committees formed to execute the repatriation and meet from time to time if necessary. “Once we can start the repatriation and if things go well, the number can increase,” said the joint secretary. “We have asked the Myanmar side to begin the repatriation with about 6,500 Rohingyas now staying along zero point of the border,” he said.

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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.

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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