Rohingya repatriation: BD for joint verification, UN involvement

Rohingya repatriation: BD for joint verification, UN involvement

SAM Staff,

Bangladesh has proposed a joint verification instead of the unilateral one placed by Myanmar to determine the qualification of repatriation of Rohingyas in a credible manner.

“We’ve proposed a joint verification against Myanmar’s own verification proposal to determine qualification required for repatriation,” Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali told a discussion here on Tuesday.

He said Bangladesh also proposed international engagement and involvement of UN agencies like IOM and UNHCR at all stages of repatriation process.

The Foreign Minister was addressing a roundtable discussion ‘The Rohingya Crisis: Measures taken by Bangladesh and way Forward’ organised by the Bangladesh Institute of International Strategic Studies (BIISS) at its auditorium.

He said Bangladesh has laid emphasis on the repatriation of all the Rohingyas taken shelter in Bangladesh since the beginning.

Earlier, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to form a joint working group to start the repatriation process the terms and reference of which will be set through discussions.

“The proposal to take back Rohingyas partially might be a Myanmar’s strategy to lessen international concern and pressure on Myanmar,” said the Foreign Minister.

He said Myanmar may downsise the number of valid Rohingyas for repatriation through its own verification process and delay the implementation of the Kofi Annan Commission’s recommendations through various excuses.

“Repatriation is a complex and long-term process. It’ll be difficult to convince Myanmar in long-term repatriation process without international monitoring and cooperation,” Minister Ali said.

He said Bangladesh wants a peaceful solution to the crisis and it has been trying to resolve the issue through multilateral, regional and bilateral means. “We’ve international supports in our diplomatic efforts.”

The Foreign Minister said Myanmar will have to address the root cause by returning Rohingyas’ citizenship and basic rights. “It seems Myanmar won’t take initiatives to resolve the root cause of Rohingya crisis if the international community doesn’t put pressure on it,” he said.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam and Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque also spoke on the occasion.

Minister Ali said the government is working to peacefully resolve the crisis.

The solution to the crisis will be a long-term one, and the government is working on it, said Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque.

Experts, including former diplomats, senior government officials, senior military officers, academics and media personalities participated in the open discussion and expressed their opinions, observations, and suggestions.

Disaster Management and Relief Ministry joint secretary M Habibul Kabir Chowdhury briefed the participants on relief distribution operations for Rohingyas.

Two high officials of the Bangladesh Armed Forces Division delivered statements regarding relief operations carried out by the armed forces division.

Quoting Bangladesh border guards, the UNHCR on Tuesday said more than 11,000 Rohingya refugees crossed by land on Monday into south-eastern Bangladesh through several points while the total number of new arrivals crossed 520,000.

Earlier, Bangladesh has differed with Myanmar over return of Myanmar nationals to their homeland from Bangladesh on the basis of 1992 Joint Statement saying the situation of 1992 and current situation is ‘entirely different’.

Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali conveyed it to diplomats stationed in Dhaka while briefing them at state guesthouse Padma on Monday afternoon.

He referred to the recent visit of Myanmar’s Union Minister at the Office of the State Counsellor Kyaw Tint Swe to Dhaka on October 2 at his invitation.

The Foreign Minister informed that during the meeting the Union Minister has expressed Myanmar’s willingness to take back the ‘displaced residents’ of Myanmar and proposed to follow the principle and criteria agreed upon in the 1992 Joint Statement.

He informed that Bangladesh has welcomed the visit of Union Minister and his willingness to work together for return of the forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals.

However, with regard to the principles and criteria of return under the 1992 Joint Statement, Minister Ali highlighted that the situation of 1992 and current situation is entirely different.

Around half of the Muslim villages in the Northern Rakhine State have been burned down and the burning is still going on.

“So, identification of Rohingyas based on their residences in Rakhine won’t be realistic,” said a Foreign Ministry statement issued after the briefing.

Bangladesh, therefore, proposed and handed over a new arrangement to the visiting Minister outlining the principles and criteria for repatriation.