Rohingya Muslim refugees who return to Myanmar from Bangladesh will initially live in temporary shelters or camps, Dhaka said on Saturday according to AFP. The two countries signed a repatriation agreement on Thursday, which allows for the return of refugees to Myanmar “at the earliest opportunity”.
The deal was reached 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.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali told reporters in Dhaka on Saturday that the refugees would stay at temporary shelters “for a limited time”. Under the deal, Naypyidaw will “encourage those who had left Myanmar to return voluntarily and safely to their own households” in Rakhine State or “to a safe and secure place nearest to it”, the minister said.
He added that the Rohingya would have to stay in temporary shelters because most of their villages had been burnt down. Under the terms of the deal, Myanmar has to ensure that camps are only a temporary solution, and that refugees’ “freedom of movement in the Rakhine state will be allowed in conformity with the existing laws and regulations”.
But Rohingya activist Mohammad Zubair expressed disappointment at this. “Rohingya people will never agree to voluntary repatriation if they are not taken back to their villages and their land returned to them,” he told AFP. He said the Rohingya must get citizenship in Myanmar before they return to their villages.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees on Friday said that conditions enabling refugees to safely return to Rakhine state were not in place. The high commission added that all repatriation must take place with the “informed consent” of the refugees.