Myanmar, Bangladesh agree to start Rohingya repatriation next week: report
19 August 2019
Myanmar and Bangladesh are reported to have agreed restart attempt to repatriate thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar's Rakhine state following a military crackdown on militants.
A Reuters report, citing internal emails by the refugee agency UNHCR, said Myanmar has asked UN officials to ensure whether the refugees verified by Myanmar really want to return.
The first batch of refugees would return to Myanmar next week, provided they agree to go back.
"We have agreed to the repatriation of 3,540 people on August 22," Reuters quoted Myint Thu, a spokesman for Myanmar's ministry of foreign affairs, as saying over the phone.
Rohingyas have generally been refusing to return to Rakhine fearing persecution and return of military action against militants.
United Nations has said the Rohingyas had fled to neighbouring Bangladesh after a military-led crack-down with "genocidal intent." More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine in August 2017.
A total of 3,540 refugees have been cleared for return by Myanmar from a list of more than 22,000 names recently sent by Bangladesh, the report quoted officials from both countries.
Bangladeshi officials have reportedly said the new effort was a "small-scale" repatriation plan and that nobody will be forced to return.
According to Rohingya activist belonging to the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, Mohammed Eleyas, refugees had not been consulted about the process.
He also wants Myanmar to agree to key demands of the community before repatriation begins.
UNHCR will provide refugees with the relevant and reliable information available on the conditions in Myanmar, subject to current constraint on access in the areas of return.
Thousands of Rohingya remain inside Myanmar, confined to camps and villages across Rakhine state where government troops have been fighting an insurgency for months.
The region has been enveloped in a new war, with government troops fighting Arakan Army insurgents, members of an ethnic armed group that recruits from the mostly Buddhist Rakhine, who make up the majority in the area.