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Deal on taking Rohingyas back in two years

UNHCR seeks to be part of talks, access to Rakhine

January 17, 2018 00:00:00

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed on Tuesday a document on 'Physical Arrangement' which will facilitate return of Rohingays to their homeland from Bangladesh, report agencies.

The 'Physical Arrangement' stipulates that the repatriation would be completed preferably within two years from the commencement of repatriation.

Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque and Myanmar Permanent Secretary Myint Thu led Bangladesh and Myanmar delegations respectively at the meeting and signed the document on 'Physical Arrangement'.

Meanwhile, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, stressed Tuesday the importance of Rohingyas' return meeting the international standards saying that they are willing to be part of these talks on repatriation.

"To ensure that the refugees are heard and their protection guaranteed in Bangladesh and on return in Myanmar, we are willing to be part of these discussions," said UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic at a press briefing in Geneva.

The signed 'Physical Arrangement' is guided by the earlier understanding and principles under the signed "Arrangement on return of displaced person from Rakhine State" and the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the joint working group (JWG).

Verification and return of Rohingyas will be based on considering the family as a unit. The two countries also finalised the "form" for verification.

Initially, some 1500 Rohingyas will be sent back every week and gradually the number would be increased, said a diplomatic source.

Modalities for repatriation of orphans and children born out of unwarranted incidence have been incorporated in the said arrangement, according to the Foreign Ministry in Dhaka.

Under the 'Physical Arrangement' Bangladesh will establish five transit camps from which returnees would be received initially in two reception centres on the Myanmar side.

Myanmar will shelter the returnees in a temporary accommodation at the Hla Pho Khung and expeditiously rebuild the houses for the returnees to move in there.

Myanmar will also consider resettling the people staying at the zero line on a priority basis.

Myanmar has reiterated its commitment to stop outflow of Myanmar residents to Bangladesh.

Both countries agreed to form two 'Technical Working Group', one on verification and the other on return.

The 'Physical Arrangement' has included modalities of the relevant aspects of the return.

On November 23, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed 'Arrangement' on Return of displaced Myanmar persons sheltered in Bangladesh.

An AFP report adds, the deal, hammered out in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw, applies to approximately 750,000 Rohingya who fled Myanmar in two major outbreaks of violence since October 2016, when militants from the stateless Muslim minority first attacked border-guard posts in northern Rakhine state.

Another report adds, UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said UNHCR understands that discussions between Bangladesh and Myanmar focused on the modalities for the return of Rohingyas to Myanmar. "In any such situation, UNHCR hopes that refugees will be able to return home when they themselves choose to," said the spokesperson.

Before considering return to Myanmar, Mahecic said, some Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have informed UNHCR staff that they will need to see positive developments in relation to their legal status and citizenship, the security situation in Rakhine State, and their ability to enjoy basic rights back home.

The UNHCR official said major challenges have to be overcome and these include ensuring that refugees are informed about the situation in their areas of origin and potential return and consulted on their wishes.

Their safety needs to be ensured throughout - on departure, in transit and on return; and that the environment in the areas of return is conducive to safe and sustainable return, Mahecic added.

Another report adds: The potential return of 100,000 Rohingya to Myanmar without a clear understanding of their legal status, interim and/or final destination, or even whether they have volunteered for the return trip, is a matter of grave concern, says the UK International Development Committee.

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