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Immediate Rohingya repatriation ‘unlikely’

The Daily Dawn

The repatriation of Rohingyas living in Bangladesh may take further time as the verification of the first-batch list of Rohingyas, handed over by Bangladesh, 'depends on Myanmar' as there is no specific timeframe to complete it.

Besides, a favourable and safe environment in Rakhine State, which is necessary for the much-sought reparation, is yet to be created though Bangladesh has handed over the first-batch list to start the repatriation of the Rohingyas, observes the international community.

According to them, the Rohingyas living in Bangladesh are yet to get back their confidence to return to their homeland as they still fear further attack on them, UNB reports.

"The causes of their flight have not been addressed, and we have yet to see substantive progress on addressing the exclusion and denial of rights that has deepened over the last decades, rooted in their lack of citizenship," said United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

He made the observation while making his statement at the United Nations Security Council briefing on Myanmar in New York on Tuesday through videoconferencing from Geneva.

M Saiful Islam, a Rohingya who came to Bangladesh on September 14, told UNB, "If our demands are met, we're willing to go back."

He said they must be given citizenship in addition to ensuring a safe place for them to live in. "We want to go back to our own land; we don't want any temporary shelter," Saiful added.

Saiful, who used to work for a non-government organisation in Rakhine, said the Rohingya people must be given compensation as well for the losses they had suffered.

Bangladesh has handed over a list of 1673 families of 8032 Rohingays to Myanmar to start the first phase of repatriation of the Rohingyas people living in Bangladesh to their homeland in Rakhine.

"We're not aware of it (handing over the list of 8032 Rohingyas) but came to know about it from media," Saiful said.

Talking to UNB, Commissioner of Cox's Bazar Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC) Mohammad Abul Kalam said they are working on the ground to complete the necessary works before starting the repatriation.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said the Myanmar side has cordially received the list and Myanmar will scrutinise it and then send it back to Bangladesh.

Asked about any timeframe for Myanmar to complete scrutinizing the list, Abul Kalam said, "It depends on them. There's no specific timeframe."

A government official said though there is no specific date for the repatriation but Myanmar showed sincerity and are taking preparations to take their nationals back.

Another Rohingya, Hafez Ahmed, from Balukhali-2 camp said none of their demands has been met yet and still people are coming to Bangladesh from Myanmar which shows there is no safe environment in Rakhine State.

"We want our citizenship. This must be given. We don't want to go back now," he said adding that he came to know about handing over of first list through BBC radio.

Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric said the underlying point is that any return needs to be voluntary and should not be the forced one.

"Well, you know, the possibility is that the situation right now is not conducive...I think as the High Commissioner for Refugees said recently, it's not conducive to the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees," he said.

The UN Spokesman said repatriation needs to be voluntary and it needs to be done within existing law. "They should not go back to camps. They need to go back to their homes, the homes that they were forced to leave."

A government official said Bangladesh remains engaged internationally for continuing international pressure on Myanmar to take back their nationals from Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has also encouraged member states of the European Union to put pressure on Myanmar to ensure the peaceful and sustainable return of forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals from Bangladesh to their homes in Rakhine state.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan on Friday said a congenial environment needs to be created in Rakhine to make their return sustainable.

A meeting between Bangladesh and Myanmar will be held in a Myanmar district at 10am on February 20 to take back over 6000 Rohingyas now staying along the zero line.

A delegation of European Parliament members last week reiterated the support of the European Union, while witnessing the humanitarian tragedy of one of the most serious refugee crisis in the world.

They underlined the need to protect human dignity and hoped that a sustainable solution would be found that also addresses the root causes.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has reiterated that solution to the Rohingya crisis lies in Myanmar and sought significant support for Bangladesh which is severely affected by the crisis.

"As we've repeatedly said resolving this crisis means finding solutions inside Myanmar. However, while these are pursued, as they must be, significant support will be required in Bangladesh," he said.

On January 16, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a document on 'Physical Arrangement' which will facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland from Bangladesh.

The 'Physical Arrangement' stipulates that the repatriation will be completed preferably within two years from the start of repatriation.

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