Dhaka – Nearly four months after the first deadline, a senior Myanmar official has assured Bangladesh of starting the refugee repatriation “very soon” as hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims, who fled a brutal crackdown at home, languish in crowded camps in Cox’s Bazar.
“I am very sure that we can start repatriation of Rohingya as soon as possible,” Win Myat Aye, Myanmar’s cabinet minister for social welfare, told reporters concluding his two-day official visit to Bangladesh on Thursday.
Dhaka and Naypyidaw inked an agreement in November to return of the refugees after nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims crossed into Bangladesh fleeing the crackdown that the Myanmar authorities launched in August. The United Nations called the crackdown a ‘textbook case of ethnic cleansing”.
The repatriation was supposed to begin on January 23 and to be completed in two years. But the process stalled thanks to lack of preparedness from both Bangladesh and Myanmar. Bangladeshi analysts say Myanmar has been deliberately making the process lingered.
Aye, who arrived in Dhaka on Wednesday, visited a number of Rohingya at a camp in Cox’s Bazar, where the refugees asked the Myanmar authorities to create an atmosphere conducive for their return and ensure citizen’s rights.
None of the two other Myanmar ministers, visited Bangladesh after the mass exodus began from the Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state, went to the camps to see the humanitarian situation.
Aye, who met with Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Ahsan Mahmood Ali and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, said his government understands the difficulties in the repatriation process.
The two countries overcame many difficulties on the way to the repatriation process of the Rohingya, he said adding that both Bangladesh and Myanmar have been working to start repatriation process as soon as possible.
The matter has already discussed with UN refugee agency and the UNDP, he said.
To a question, the Myanmar minister said the returnees would be able to apply for citizenship subject to verification under Myanmar laws.
“First, they have to get National Verification Card to apply for citizenship and the authorities will give them citizenship status after scrutiny,” he said.
Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Ali said the meeting discussed the impediments for the safe, dignified and sustainable return of the Rohingya to their home.
Bangladesh requested Myanmar for rebuilding the villages for repatriating Rohingya in their homeland in Rakhine state, he said adding the Myanmar delegation responded positively to the request saying they already undertook the rebuilding process with the help of many countries.
“We, the both sides, have agreed that the returnees should not stay for more than a few days in transit camps,” Ali added.