Fate of 7,000 Rohingyas on zero line still uncertain
Myanmar will take back the around 7,000 Rohingyas, who have been staying in the no man's land adjacent to the Bangladeshi village of Konapara in Bandarban since they fled their homes in Rakhine following atrocities that began late August last year.
“We asked the Myanmar officials to take them back at the earliest possible time. They agreed they would take them,” Mohammad Abul Kalam, refugee, relief and rehabilitation commissioner of Bangladesh, told The Daily Star after a meeting with a Myanmar delegation yesterday.
He said the 7,000 Rohingyas have been staying on the Myanmar side. Bangladesh did not need to register them like the other Rohingya refugees -- some 700,000, who have fled violence in Rakhine since late August last year and over 300,000 who fled during earlier waves of violence.
“We told them it is Myanmar's responsibility to take them back,” said Abul Kalam, who took part in the meeting.
Chittagong Divisional Commissioner Abdul Mannan led the 11-member Bangladesh delegation, while Maungdaw district commissioner led the 14-member Myanmar delegation at the meeting.
It took place at a local government office in Myanmar, two kilometres off the border, said Cox's Bazar Deputy Commissioner Ali Hossain, who attended the meeting.
During an interval of the meeting that began at 10:00am and ended at 3:00pm, both the delegations visited the Rohingyas in the no man's land, a space between Bangladesh and Myanmar border at Ghumdhum under Bandarban's Naikhyangchhari upazila.
While Bangladesh and Myanmar have signed a repatriation deal and are working towards that end, fate of the 7,000 Rohingyas, who were not registered by the Bangladesh authorities, have remained uncertain.
During the visit, the Rohingyas on the zero line said they want to go back to their homes, but want a guarantee of safety and security, Abul Kalam told this correspondent.
The Rohingyas there earlier this week told The Daily Star that Myanmar's Border Guard Police (BGP) on February 8, 9 and 12 announced (over loud speakers) that they have to move elsewhere, claiming that the zero line area belongs to Myanmar. And, staying there for months was illegal as per the international law.
Myanmar Deputy Home Minister Aung Soe along with army and BGP members went to the border area around 11:00am on February 9 and talked to the Rohingyas there.
He directed them to leave the zero line, and warned that the consequences would not be good if they did not comply.
Dil Mohammad, a community leader of the Rohingyas on the zero line, said the Myanmar deputy home minister did not talk about their going back to Myanmar, but said that the no man's land belongs to Myanmar and no one will be allowed to stay there for months.
He alleged that BGP members often come near the barbed-wire fences, fire blank shots and even throw brickbats and empty liquor bottles at the Rohingyas, instilling a greater sense of fear into them.
Until recently, the Rohingyas there did not want to move to the temporary shelters at Kutupalong or Balukhali in Cox's Bazar. But now they are considering moving to Bangladesh's shelter centres for safety, said Ghumdum Union Parishad Chairman Jahangir Aziz, quoting several of them.
Bangladesh security forces also have not allowed their entry into Bangladesh, while many of them have said they would rather stay there to avoid becoming refugees.
Kalam said during the home minister-level meeting between the two countries in Dhaka last week, Bangladesh had asked Myanmar to first take back the Rohingyas staying on the zero line of Ghumdum. “We will extend cooperation in this regard if Myanmar wants,” he said.
Meanwhile, diplomatic missions in Myanmar have urged the Myanmar authorities to address the underlying problems including security, freedom of movement, access to livelihoods, health and education and citizenship, reports UNB.
“We expect the government will now focus on addressing the underlying problems,” said the statement of the diplomatic missions. The news agency has obtained a copy of it from Yangon yesterday.
The statement is issued by the diplomatic missions that took part in government-arranged trips to the Rakhine State in this month. The missions include Australia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Turkey, and the United States.