Bangladesh and Myanmar are likely to finalise an agreement on ‘physical arrangement’ on January 15 to start the repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh to Myanmar.
The two countries will hold the first meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) in Myanmar’s capital on January 15 which will finalise the agreement, said a diplomatic source.
Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque will lead the Bangladesh delegation at the meeting.
Despite challenges, Bangladesh and Myanmar remain optimistic to start the repatriation of Rohingyas by January following the ongoing negotiations with Myanmar bilaterally.
Earlier, State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam said they are on track in terms of timeframe mentioned in the bilateral document signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar on November 23.
“We’re all upbeat. We’re confident and we’re hopeful. We’re bilaterally engaged (with Myanmar),” he said describing the international support that Bangladesh gained on the issue.
Meanwhile, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader recently mentioned about handing a list of 100,000 Rohingyas to Myanmar for sending them back to Myanmar.
Quoting Myanmar Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Dr Win Myat Aye, Myanmar media reported that they will start repatriating those families who fled from Rakhine State to Bangladesh on January 22.
Win Myat Aye said a group of 450 Hindu refugees will be allowed back across the border to Myanmar on January 22 as the first step in the repatriation process.
A refugee camp has been set up at Taungpyoleiwei in northwestern Rakhine State for those returning overland from Bangladesh, while a second camp has been erected in Ngakhuya, Maungdaw township for those returning by sea or waterways.
India recently announced a development assistance of $25 million for Myanmar’s Rakhine State, from where thousands of Rohingya Muslims recently fled their homeland amid violence against them.
Bangladesh finalised a draft on the physical arrangement to begin the repatriation of Rohingyas living in Cox's Bazar district in an effective and faster way.
The National Taskforce on Implementation of Strategy on Myanmar Refugees and Undocumented Myanmar Nationals and an Inter-Ministerial meeting were held recently discussing the repatriation issue.
Around 1 million Rohingyas are now living in Bangladesh, including 655,500 new arrivals since August 25, officials said.
The physical arrangement will have the detailed guideline for the repatriation and rehabilitation of Rohingyas.
As per the agreement signed on November 23, Myanmar has agreed to take necessary measures to halt the outflow of its residents to Bangladesh, restore normalcy in Rakhine and encourage those who had left Myanmar to return voluntarily and safely to their own homeland and original places of residence or to a safe and secure place nearest to it of their choice.
Under the agreement, Myanmar will take back those people, who entered Bangladesh after October 9 last year and August 25this year.
The repatriation of those who took shelter in Bangladesh before October 9 last year would also be considered separately after the conclusion of the present arrangement, the minister told journalists.
Officials said the government has prepared a database containing the names of 850,000 Rohingyas who took shelter in Bangladesh.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told the Security Council recently that the origins and solutions to the Rohingya crisis rest in Myanmar.
“The repatriation and reconciliation policies will fail without the accountability and non-discriminatory rule of law and public safety measures to address the fears and distrust among communities in Rakhine,” he emphasised.