Rohingyas will feel safe if they see the international community's presence in areas of Myanmar's Rakhine state where they are to be repatriated, Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen said yesterday.
He made the comment before a tripartite meeting, which is going to be held between Bangladesh, Myanmar, and China today, over the repatriation.
Officials at the Bangladesh's foreign ministry said they think the Rohingyas will feel confident and safe if they return to one area as a group.
"We think regaining of confidence among the Rohingyas is very important. If they know well ahead how they will be staying once they return, if they are together in a village and if there is presence of the international community, the repatriation can start soon," the foreign secretary told a few reporters on the eve of the meeting.
Momen, Chinese Vice Minister Luo Zhaohui and Myanmar Permanent Secretary Aye Chan will lead their respective delegations in the virtual meeting.
This will be the second such meetings between the three countries. Earlier, they held a foreign minister-level meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2019.
Two attempts to repatriate the refugees to their homeland -- once on November 15 in 2018 and then again on August 22 in 2019 -- ended in failure after around 750,000 Rohingyas took shelter in Bangladesh to escape a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine in August 2017.
Rohingyas say there is no guarantee of safety, citizenship and basic rights in Rakhine where many Rohingyas were killed, women raped and their houses were burnt -- for which Myanmar now faces a genocide case in the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
In response to the Gambia's case, the ICJ issued provisional order asking Myanmar to prevent further acts of genocide against the Rohingyas in Rakhine State where some 600,000 of the ethnic community still live. They have no citizenship or other basic rights and faced persecutions for generations, forcing them to flee to other countries, mostly to Bangladesh, since 1980s.
Though many returned in the 1980s and 1990s, the others are reluctant to return after their influx in 2017 due to a lack of safety and security. They also have been demanding presence of the international community in Rakhine as a condition for return.
Bangladesh, meanwhile, is facing serious socio-economic, environmental, security and diplomatic challenges due to the presence of some one million refugees in Cox's Bazar.
Dhaka fears that presence of such a large number of Rohingyas in the country will create regional instability, and wants quick start of the Rohingya repatriation.
A foreign ministry official told this correspondent that Dhaka wants to start the Rohingya repatriation before the monsoon this year.
Last week, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said Bangladesh handed over to Myanmar a list of 8.4 lakh Rohingyas for verification, but it has so far verified only 42,000 people.
He hopes that Myanmar will speed up the verification process and start the repatriation quickly.
Foreign Secretary Masud said, "It will be more practical if we take a village-based approach. Say, if the identities of the Rohingyas of one village is verified, they can go there together. We can consider the approach on a pilot basis."
He also stressed the need for presence of the international community in the areas where the Rohingyas are repatriated.
The UN, China, ASEAN, Japan, Korea and India can have their representatives present there. China, a very close friend of Myanmar, is appearing to be a guarantor or broker in the repatriation process, and so their presence is very important, he added.