Bangladesh hands list of 8,032 Rohingya refugees to Myanmar for repatriation

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal has handed a list 8,032 Rohingya refugees to his Myanmar counterpart Kyaw Swe for repatriation.

Published : 16 Feb 2018, 01:39 PM
Updated : 16 Feb 2018, 08:17 PM

After a meeting between delegations of the two countries in Dhaka on Friday, Kamal said Bangladesh has listed around 1.1 million Myanmar nationals who have crossed the border.

He said the people on the list handed to Swe were from 1,673 families.

According to the home minister, Myanmar officials told them in the meeting they would check the identities of the Rohingyas before repatriation.

He also said Cox’s Bazar Deputy Commissioner Md Ali Hossain would visit Myanmar on Tuesday to discuss the return of over 6,000 Myanmar nationals who are staying in the no man’s land at the border.

No Myanmar official commented on what they discussed in the meeting.

Around 700,000 refugees crossed the border after the Myanmar Army launched an ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas on Aug 25 last year following insurgent attacks on security forces in Rakhine State.

Rohingyas form long lines to wait for biometric registration at the Kutupalong refugee camp. Photo: mostafigur rahman

Bangladesh already sheltered 400,000 refugees who fled decades of violent persecution in Myanmar.

The two countries formed a joint panel to repatriate the recently arrived Rohingyas following an agreement signed last year.

The panel agreed the ‘arrangement on return of the displaced people’ from Rakhine on Jan 16.

The repatriation was also scheduled to start in January, but Bangladesh delayed it, citing safety concerns for the refugees.

Three stages of rehabilitation

Kamal said 1.06 million Myanmar nationals have been registered in Bangladesh.  

“We’ve discussed how they (Myanmar) will take these people back. They (Myanmar officials) sounded very sincere. They said they will take the refugees back gradually,” he said.

Referring to comments by his Myanmar counterpart Swe, Kamal said the place where the Rohingyas lived is a region of many potentials and the government planned to develop a village to keep the returnees there.

A Myanmar immigration official stands at the door of a building inside the camp set up by Myanmar's Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Minister to prepare for the repatriation of displaced Rohingyas, who fled to Bangladesh, outside Maungdaw in the state of Rakhine, Myanmar Jan 24, 2018. Reuters

The minister has said Myanmar will rehabilitate the Rohingyas in three stages, according to Kamal.

“Their first job will be to identify the Rohingyas for rehabilitation. They will build houses for the Rohingyas and finally they will work to ensure permanent residency of this population,” the home minister said.  

He said they discussed the five-point proposals floated by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the UN General Assembly and 10 points of the recommendations made by the Kofi Annan Commission to resolve the Rohingya crisis.

“These people will not get a social environment suitable for permanent stay if we send them back (now). Myanmar has admitted it and said it will work to rehabilitate them properly,” Kamal said.

A man walks inside the camp set up by Myanmar's Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Minister to prepare for the repatriation of displaced Rohingyas, who fled to Bangladesh, outside Maungdaw in the state of Rakhine, Myanmar Jan 24, 2018. Reuters

Hasina’s proposals included an end to violence in Rakhine forever, formation of a UN fact-finding mission, creation of ‘safe zones’ inside Myanmar under UN supervision, sustainable return of all forcibly displaced Rohingyas, and implementation of the Annan Commission report.

Giving citizenship to the Rohingya Muslims and taking them back from Bangladesh after ‘joint verification’ are some of the key features of the Annan commission recommendations.

No timeline

The home minister said no exact date to start the repatriation process was discussed in the meeting.

The Myanmar delegation assured Bangladesh of taking back the Rohingyas from the no man’s land ‘shortly’, he said.

In his words, the process to repatriate the Rohingyas on the list handed to Myanmar will also start ‘soon’.

“They will check our list first and then decide about how soon to start the process of taking them back.

“The joint panel will sit frequently. Both the sides have agreed on the repatriation.”

Rohingyas head for the mainland in Cox's Bazar's Teknaf on boats from Myanmar via Shah Porir Dwip. Photo: mostafigur rahman

Kamal also said the Myanmar delegation admitted that the Rohingyas were still coming to Bangladesh.

“They said they will take steps to stop this,” he said.   

Myanmar ‘gaining’ Bangladesh’s trust

Terming the discussion ‘very fruitful’, Kamal said he wanted to keep faith in Myanmar’s words.

“They were in a very positive mood. They agreed to take back the Rohingyas in phases. They are preparing for it,” he said.  

“We want to believe in their words and they are gaining our trust. Maybe they will take the Rohingyas back,” he added.

Call to halt yaba

The home minister said they asked the Myanmar delegation to stop the smuggling of yaba.

He said Bangladesh has spotted 49 factories in Myanmar where the drug is produced and asked to shut those down.

The Myanmar delegation said they would try to close the factories, the minister said.

Yaba tablets seized in Chittagong. File Photo

Security Services Secretary Farid Uddin Ahmed Chowdhury, Public Security Secretary Mostafa Kamal Uddin, Inspector General of Police Jabed Patwary, Border Guard Bangladesh Director General Maj Gen Abul Hossain, Coast Guard Director General Maj Gen Saiful Abedin, among others, were in the Bangladesh delegation.

The Myanmar delegation included Home Secretary U Tin Myint, Foreign Secretary Myint Thu, police chief Aung Win Oo, and Ambassador U Lwin Oo.