Rohingya repatriation impasse | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 01, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 01, 2010


Rohingya repatriation impasse

A sign of melting that needs to be vigorously pursued for results

THIS is a positive development on the long pending Rohingya repatriation issue emerging from the fourth foreign secretary-level talks between Bangladesh and Myanmar in Dhaka. We welcome this. With Myanmar deputy foreign minister Maung Myint indicating his country's willingness to take back 9,000 of the 28,000 registered Myanmar refugees encamped in Cox's Bazar, at least some forward movement on the repatriation issue is in sight.
To successive Bangladesh governments' chagrin, the question remained consigned on to the Myanmar military rulers' back burner for the last nearly two decades, thanks to their insensitivity and intransigence.
That way it is a breakthrough, a diplomatic success, but certainly one that must be acclaimed with cautious optimism. For, a similar green light was given by the Myanmar side for the same number of refugees to be taken back in 2005, but that ended up being a disappointment: only 90 went back to Myanmar.
Moreover, return of refugees repatriated earlier on is an added dimension to the problem, basically underlining the incongeniality of atmosphere at that end. In a large part though, this was also due to the relative ease with which they could put up in Bangladesh amidst shared humanitarian concern of Bangladesh government and the UNHCR. It is alleged that several of them may have melted away in adjoining places in Bangladesh.
The upshot of all these has been the straining of local resources and employment opportunities which a resource-strapped country like Bangladesh with a huge unemployment problem can ill-afford. Besides, the presence of undocumented refugees tends to breed social tension, let alone risking anti-social and criminal activities of variegated nature.
We believe that in the news of the Myanmar government sounding somewhat positive on the issue lies a wider prospect of taking the repatriation process forward through concerted efforts of government of Bangladesh, that of Myanmar and the UNHCR which must be fully realised now. It will bring Myanmar closer to Bangladesh, would be good for productive bilateral relations between the two countries while the humanitarian concerns are met.

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