Bangladesh signed a deal with Myanmar on Thursday to allow the return of lakhs of Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence in the Rakhine state, Reuters reported.
More than six lakh Rohingyas have crossed the border into Bangladesh from Rakhine state since August 25, after security forces launched an operation allegedly in response to attacks carried out by militants. They have been living in crowded refugee camps in Bangladesh.
The deal was signed by officials from both countries in Naypidaw, Myanmar’s capital, BBC reported. Bangladesh called the deal a “first step”.
Myint Kyaing, a permanent secretary at Myanmar’s ministry of labour, immigration and population, told Reuters, “We are ready to take them back as soon as possible after Bangladesh sends the [repatriation] forms back to us.”
However, with little information available about the details of the deal, aid agencies have raised concerns about the forcible return of the Rohingyas, BBC reported.
The deal comes a day after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Myanmar’s military action against the minority population “ethnic cleansing”. Tillerson said the US was considering targeted sanctions against those responsible for the violence. Tillerson had visited Myanmar last week.
Months of being refugees
The Rohingya are a stateless minority who have long experienced persecution in Myanmar. More than 6,00,000 have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since violence erupted in Rakhine state late in August.
The refugees who arrived in Bangladesh have described brutal violence in their villages and food shortages. In October, the United Nations Human Rights office said the brutal attacks were aimed at preventing Rohingyas from ever returning home.