Bangladesh and Myanmar on Tuesday said the Rohingya refugee repatriation process will begin by mid-November, The Dhaka Tribune reported. Bangladesh Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque made the announcement following a meeting with his Myanmar counterpart Myint Thu.
After the meeting on Tuesday, Myint Thu said the decision is a “very concrete result on the commencement of the repatriation”, Reuters reported. “We have put in place a number of measures to make sure that the returnees will have a secure environment for their return,” the Myanmar official said.
Rights groups and Rohingya community leaders, however, say conditions are not conducive for the return of the refugees. Myanmar treats Rohingyas as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and does not acknowledge their rights as an official ethnic group. A United Nations report, in September, had said there was no indication that the process will adhere to human rights and called for the prosecution of Myanmar’s top military generals accused of human rights abuse and genocide.
In September, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had accused Myanmar of using delaying tactics to block the return of Rohingya refugees to their homes in Rakhine state. Hasina had said her nation was already responsible for its 160 million population and could not provide a permanent refuge for the Rohingyas who were forced across the border.
More than 7 lakh Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since the Myanmar Army started a crackdown in Rakhine state in August 2017 in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, an insurgent group, on police posts and a military base.
In November 2017, Bangladesh and Myanmar had agreed to begin repatriation within two months.