Rohingya repatriation to start on Nov 15, transit camps set up

Dhaka: Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh will return to Myanmar, a year after they fled the Rakhine state following a military crackdown.

Newly-constructed transit camps have been set up for the refugees who are scheduled to repatriate on November 15, according to media reports.

Myanmar has received a list of Rohingya families who are supposed to return to the country, however, many Rohingyas of Ukhiya and Teknaf camps of Cox’s Bazar are not yet ready to return due to safety concerns.

The concerned authority asserted that the repartition process would start soon if everything goes well, reported Dhaka Tribune. As many as 22,000 names were put on the list and after scrutiny, Naypyidaw has agreed to the return of 5,000 Rohingyas in the first phase.

“Transit camps have been prepared on the banks of Naf River near Keruntali Nayapara in Teknaf and on the land of Ghumdhum Border for Rohingya repatriation. Two transit camps have been completed since last two months. We hope to start the process of repatriation of Rohingyas next week,” said Cox’s Bazar Refugee Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam as quoted by Dhaka Tribune.

Last month, the two nations agreed on the repatriation of the Rohingya minority following the third Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting. Myanmar and Bangladesh had set up the JWG, comprising 15 members from each side in December last year.

However, the international community including the United Nations expressed concerns over the repatriation of the refugees.

“UNHCR supports the voluntary and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya refugees in safety and in dignity to their places of origin or choice and will work with all parties towards this goal. The repatriation of refugees is premised upon the free and informed decision by refugees, on an individual basis, to return,” stated UN High Commissioner in a statement.

He further emphasised on the need of a dignified and voluntary return saying, “Before making a choice of whether to return or not, the refugees reportedly verified by Myanmar as having the right to return should be allowed to visit their places of origin in Rakhine State or other places to which they might choose to return, so that they themselves can make an independent assessment of whether they feel they can return there in safety and dignity.”
Meanwhile, Dhaka has assured that no individual will be forced to return.

Naypyidaw had signed an agreement with Dhaka to resettle around one million citizens of Rakhine State currently living as refugees in Bangladesh.

The Rohingyas are a minority ethnic group in Myanmar and are considered to be illegal immigrants. More than 700,000 of them are languishing in Bangladeshi refugee camps, after fleeing a brutal Myanmar army campaign in August last year.