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Pressure on Myanmar must for sustainable Rohingya repatriation

The Daily Dawn

Norway has laid emphasis on keeping up pressure on Myanmar authorities to create necessary conditions in Rakhine State to make the return of thousands of Rohingyas living in Bangladesh to their homeland 'sustainable'.

"Yes, we've to continue to put pressure on Myanmar authorities, definitely," Norwegian Ambassador in Dhaka Sidsel Bleken told UNB in an interview at her office at the Nordic Embassy here.

Bangladesh has already handed over a list of 1,673 families of 8,032 Rohingays to Myanmar to start the first phase of repatriation of the displaced people living in Bangladesh to their homeland in Rakhine.

However, the repatriation of Rohingyas may take further time as the verification of the first-batch list of Rohingyas 'depends on Myanmar' as there is no specific timeframe to complete it.

Besides, the Rohingyas living in Bangladesh say they are unwilling to return now as none of their demands, including the citizenship right, has been met.

Responding to a question, the Norwegian Ambassador said there is an agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar on Rohingya repatriation.

"We all agree that the problem lies in Myanmar and the solution [also] lies there," she said adding that unfortunately it does not seem to be very likely that conditions on the Myanmar side have improved substantially.

Ambassador Bleken said Rohingyas need to be able to return their homes 'voluntarily and safely' with the protection they should have before their return.

Until that happens, she said, a large number of Rohingyas will continue to stay in Bangladesh for quite some time. "What we need is to work together to make that [return] as sustainable as possible."

Asked about the role of the international community, the Norwegian Ambassador said response from the international community has been 'substantive' and support from Bangladesh is also laudable.
"Together, they've managed to improve the situation as Bangladesh witnessed such a large number of people coming in a very, very short time. So, it was very, very challenging," she said.

The Norwegian Ambassador, however, said considering the situation of such big scale it has never been enough.

Responding to another question, Ambassador Bleken said unfortunately this is a situation that will not be solved in near future. "So, we need to continue to support and need to continue to cooperate with."

She laid emphasis on working with the government of Bangladesh to keep supporting both Rohingyas and the host communities. "Because they (host community) are also very much affected."

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 its start.

UN Resident Coordinator in Dhaka Mia Seppo on Monday said the United Nations is working with much importance to find a solution to the Rohingya crisis.

She said there has been much progress to that end, and the UN keeps up its efforts to find the solution.

The UN Resident Coordinator also appreciated Bangladesh for giving shelter to a large number of Rohingyas in Bangladesh.

The European Parliament members after visiting Myanmar last week said the mass exodus of Rohingya people following human rights violations makes it necessary for the European Union (EU) to reassess its relationship with Myanmar.

The EU must reconsider its relationship with Myanmar and develop new policies based on incentives and disincentives in each sector, as well as robust conditions, they said in a press statement.

A delegation from the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI), joined by Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee MEPs as well as Members of the Asean Delegation, visited the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.

The Chair of the delegation Pier Antonio Panzeri said the European Parliament has had concerns about the human rights situation in Myanmar and after a five-day visit (Feb 12-16) these concerns remain as the human rights situation is clearly deteriorating in various regions of the country and affecting many diverse cultural, ethnic and religious groups, human rights defenders and journalists.

They said there is a need for full implementation of the November 23arrangement between Bangladesh and Myanmar, with guarantees including a strong involvement of the UNHCR, a modification of the 1982 law on citizenship with a view to solving the problem of stateless people; and effective monitoring of the human rights situation in the country as well as unhindered humanitarian access to Rakhine State.

"The causes of their plight have not been addressed, and we've yet to see any 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 last week.UNB.

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