Myanmar officials arrive to talk repatriation
12:00 AM, December 18, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:06 AM, December 18, 2017

Rohingya Repatriation: Myanmar team flies in today

To hold talks on formation of joint working group; envoys from 15 countries visit refugee camps

A six-member Myanmar delegation arrives in Dhaka today for a meeting to set up the Joint Working Group, which would facilitate the repatriation of Rohingyas who fled violence in Rakhine State.

Permanent Secretary of the Myanmar Foreign Ministry Myint Thu would lead the delegation, reports our diplomatic correspondent.

Diplomatic sources said the two countries, which have been exchanging modalities of repatriation, terms and conditions, and other procedures, still had differences on some issues.

Officials at the foreign ministry said they believed that the differences could be overcome through discussion when the two sides meet tomorrow.

As per an initial agreement, signed on November 23, the two countries were supposed to form the JWG within three weeks. But they failed to set it up by the December-14 deadline due to procedural complexities.

Yesterday, an inter-ministerial meeting was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque in the chair to discuss the strategy for discussion with the Myanmar delegation.

Talking to The Daily Star, a senior official who attended the meeting said Dhaka was serious about speedy repatriation of the forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals and would urge Myanmar to take back its citizens as per the agreement signed.

A 24-member JWG is likely to be composed of officials from home and foreign ministries of the two countries.

As per the November-23 agreement, the return of the Rohingyas should start within two months, but most of the officials have doubts about that.

According to the deal, Rohingyas will have to fill in forms with names of family members, addresses in Myanmar, birth date and sign a statement of voluntary return. The requirements for identification documents have been a contentious issue for the stateless Rohingyas.

UN bodies and rights groups have voiced concern over the “premature” repatriation process. They raised questions about the safety and resettlement of the returnees as hundreds of their villages have been razed and an anti-Muslim sentiment prevails in Rakhine.

More than 655,000 Rohingyas have crossed into Bangladesh since August 25, escaping a military crackdown in Rakhine State, said the International Organisation for Migration, UNB reports.

Meanwhile, 19 non-resident envoys, based in New Delhi and concurrently accredited to Bangladesh, yesterday visited Rohingya refugee camps in Ukhia of Cox's Bazar, reports our Cox's Bazar correspondent.

The Rohingyas told them that they faced serious torture and repression and were forced to flee to Bangladesh to save their lives.

The envoys were from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Georgia, Egypt, Mauritius, Portugal, Slovenia, Ukraine, Zambia, Nigeria, Czech Republic, Austria, Ghana, New Zealand, Kenya and Fiji.

Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Syed Moazzem Ali and its Deputy High Commissioner Rakib Uddin accompanied the envoys.

The envoys visited Balukhali and Kutupalong camps.

They called for ensuring the rightful return of the Myanmar nationals when they met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Gono Bhaban yesterday, UNB reports.

Putting emphasis on consultation to resolve the crisis, they said the Myanmar authorities must take measures so that the Rohingyas could go back to their place of origin in Rakhine State.

They envoys highly appreciated Hasina for her gesture of humanity by giving shelter to such a huge number of Myanmar nationals in a good and well-organised manner. They said the arrangement was just wonderful.

To manage over one million people who entered Bangladesh is not so easy, rather it is too tough to organise, they said.

The envoys said the Rohingya crisis is not a problem of Bangladesh only rather it has now become an international problem.

The informed the Prime Minister that they will convey the message of the entire situation to their respective governments.

Hasina expressed her gratitude to the international community for their support to Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue.

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