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Dhaka mindful of repatriation challenges as Rohingya still coming

  • Published at 07:58 pm January 19th, 2018
Dhaka mindful of repatriation challenges as Rohingya still coming
Though there are doubts over completion of Rohingya repatriation within the stipulated time frame, officials in Dhaka say they are hopeful of resolving the 'complex' issue of repatriation, keeping all the 'difficulties' in mind. "We're optimistic though the issue is complex. We're mindful of difficulties. We remain focused on our goals," a senior Foreign Ministry official said, adding that the deviation of one or two days from the timeframe should not be counted. Bangladesh and Myanmar on Tuesday signed a document on 'Physical Arrangement' which will facilitate the return of Rohingays to their homeland from Bangladesh, most probably from January 23 or the first week of February. The instrument stipulates that the repatriation would be completed "preferably" within two years from the commencement of repatriation. However, Rohingyas are still fleeing Myanmar and taking shelter in Bangladesh though the repatriation process is set to start at the ground level. "More than 100 Rohingya have entered Bangladesh in the past two days," Ukhia Upazila Nirbahi Officer Mohammed Mikaruzzaman said. Between August 25, 2017 and January 7, 2018, about 655,500 Rohingyas have arrived in Bangladesh. Some 6,000 acres of land, according to the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) estimates, have got deforested with the installation of Rohingya camps and this is equivalent to Tk741.3 crore or$ 86.7 million. On November 23, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed 'Arrangement' on Return of displaced Myanmar persons sheltered in Bangladesh.
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Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali signed the bilateral instrument and Kyaw Tint Swe, Union Minister signed the instrument on behalf of the respective governments at the State Counsellor's Office. Contacted, an official of the government said: "It's true Rohingyas are still coming. Let's start the repatriation process first. We need to keep it in mind that the depth of the problem is very large." A section of media reported that the completion of repatriation will require a lengthy period and it is not possible to complete the repatriation within two years of commencement. When attention was drawn to this point, a senior ministry official said the repatriation might not take place at the same pace the way Rohingyas entered Bangladesh. For example, he said, 4 lakh Rohingyas took shelter in Bangladesh within 19 days. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has stressed the importance of Rohingyas' return by meeting the international standards saying that they are willing to be part of these talks on repatriation. "To ensure that the refugees are heard and their protection guaranteed in Bangladesh and on return in Myanmar, we're willing to be part of these discussions," said UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic. On the other hand, Rohingya organisations, operating globally, have sought guarantee of ensuring the security of Rohingyas' life and property and 'peaceful-coexistence' as equals with all other people in Rakhine and Myanmar before they return there. "There's no change of attitude of the Myanmar government and its military towards Rohingya; still they identify Rohingya as recent 'Bengali interlopers' from Bangladesh; and Rohingyas continue entering Bangladesh due to continuing violence and brutality against them in Arakan," they said in a joint statement. The organisations gave 12-point measure saying those are 'imperative for safe and voluntary' repatriation of the Rohingyas. "We made it clear that the repatriation will be voluntarily, safe and in a dignified manner. We made it clear on November 23 agreement," an official told UNB.
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Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali has said the Rohingya problem can be solved permanently with sustainable return of Rohingyas to Myanmar. Foreign Ministry sources said verification and return of Rohingyas will be based on considering the family as a unit and Bangladesh and Myanmar also finalised the "form" for verification. The modalities for the repatriation of orphans and children born out of unwarranted incidence have been incorporated in the said arrangement. "The verification form will be distributed among all Rohingya families. The forms will be then handed over to Myanmar authority for scrutiny. Myanmar will send back the forms to Bangladesh after scrutiny," an official said indicating that the full-scale repatriation might take some time. Each Rohingya family members will have to provide a number of information including names, gender, birthplace, name of mother and father, date of birth, address in Myanmar, profession, signs, number of family members and a group family photo. Under the Physical Arrangement, Bangladesh will establish five transit camps from which returnees would be received initially in two reception centers on Myanmar side. Myanmar will shelter the returnees in a temporary accommodation at the Hla Pho Khung and expeditiously rebuild the houses for the returnees to move in there. The country will consider resettling the people staying at the zero line on a priority basis, according to the agreement. Myanmar has reiterated its commitment to stop outflow of Myanmar residents to Bangladesh though it is still going on. Both countries agreed to form two 'technical working group, one on verification and the other on return.