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15 November, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 15 November, 2018 01:28:34 AM
Rohingya crisis

Wait for clearance as all set for repatriation

UNHCR not convinced about Rohingyas’ safety in Myanmar
Deepak Acharjee from Dhaka with Toufiqul Islam Lipu in Cox’s Bazar
Wait for clearance as all set for repatriation

Although the much-talked-about Rohingya repatriation is scheduled to start today, field-level officials in Cox’s Bazar camps did not get any clearance from the higher authorities of the Bangladesh government until yesterday night to send the first batch to their homes in Rakhine state of Myanmar.

“We are all set to send the first batch of Rohingyas to their homeland through the Border Guard Police (BGP) as per the schedule, but we are yet to get the clearance from the high-ups,” an official of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC) said while talking to The Independent at 9:30pm yesterday.

The local administration and the RRRC even made all the preparations to send the Rohingyas back home from Jamtoli’s Balukhali Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar.

To help the civil administration, Bangladesh Army and Bangladesh Border Guard (BGB) made arrangements to handover the listed Rohingyas to Myanmar’s BGP. A series of meetings were held earlier in Cox’s Bazar following disagreements over the return of the listed Rohingyas for security reasons.

Talking to The Independent, Cox’s Bazar deputy commissioner (DC) Kamal Hossain said the repatriation of the Rohingyas might be delayed because the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was not fully convinced about the safety of the Rohingyas who were supposed to be returned to Myanmar.

“The listed Rohingyas also refused to return to their country, citing security concerns,” Hossain said, adding, “That’s why we cannot repatriate them as per the agreement signed between the Bangladesh and the UNHCR on the matter.”

Quoting the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by UNHCR high commissioner Filippo Grandi and foreign secretary Shahidul Haque, the DC said they could not send the Rohingyas back against their will. “We are now waiting for the government’s decision on the issue,” he added.

On April 13, last year, the MoU was signed by the UNHCR high commissioner and the Bangladesh foreign secretary on safe, voluntary and dignified return of Rohingyas in line with international standards.

When our correspondent visited Jamtoli’s Balukhali Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar, Razuwan Khatun, a Rohingya woman listed for repatriation with her five-member family, said she agreed to return to Myanmar after Myanmar promised security. Four other members of her family had fled as they refused to return to the transit camp in Myanmar’s Maungdaw area, she added.

Not only the members of Razuwan’s family, but most of the listed Rohingyas have fled their camps to other camps, fearing repatriation to Myanmar, some Rohingyas told this correspondent.

Earlier, RRRC commissioner Abul Kalam Azad had said that they were ready to send back 2,260 Rohingyas belonging to 485 families from November 15.

“As part of the Rohingya repatriation process, Myanmar has agreed to take back 150 Rohingyas from Bangladesh daily,” he had added.

On November 23, 2017, Myanmar and Bangladesh had signed an agreement titled ‘Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine state’ during the Bangladesh foreign minister’s visit to Myanmar.

UNHCR spokesperson Joseph Tripura told this correspondent that they were preparing a report based on their assessment of 2,260 Rohingyas of 485 families listed for repatriation from Cox’s Bazar.

“We have started the assessment by interviewing the Rohingyas individually from Tuesday. The process is on. We'll prepare a report based on the interviews and send it to the government for taking further steps in this regard,” he said.

The UNHCR spokesman also said that they were interviewing the Rohingyas as per the MoU signed by foreign secretary and the high commissioner of the UNHCR. "It was for the government to decide whether to send the Rohingyas back,” he added.

The secretary of the disaster management and relief ministry, Md Shah Kamal, told The Independent that they were ready to repatriate the Roingyas. “We have completed our task, but it depends on the decision of the foreign ministry whether the Rohingya repatriation would take place on Thursday,” he added.

More than 655,000 Rohingyas have arrived in Bangladesh since August 25 last year after a military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

The UNHCR said that the conditions in Myanmar were still not conducive for the return of the Rohingyas.

During home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal’s visit to Myanmar in January this year, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed two MoUs on security cooperation and border liaison offices. On January 16, a meeting of the Joint Working Group on Rohingyas was held in Myanmar, where an agreement was reached on repatriating the Rohingyas from Bangladesh over a period of two years.

Over 655,000 Rohingyas crossed over to Bangladesh following a military crackdown.



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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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