The Myanmar government has become vocal about the issue of Rohingya repatriation after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to China. Since then Myanmar has agreed to take back 3,450 Rohingyas. Preparations to implement the plan are going on to in these two countries. All these are making the Rohingyas more optimistic about a dignified repatriation.
A high level delegation led by U Myint Thu, Permanent Secretary of the Myanmar Foreign Ministry, visited the Kutupalong Camp last month. During the visit they presented the steps taken by Myanmar regarding living conditions, livelihoods, communication system, health and education of the Rohingyas once they return to the country.
However, the refugees are still worried because the delegation did not say anything about the Rohingya getting Myanmar citizenship.
Rashid Majhi, chairman of the Registered Rohingya camp, said: “The visit of the high level delegation led by U Myint Thu, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to China are indications of the Rohingyas’ return of good luck. If Sheikh Hasina, recognized as the Mother of Humanity, keeps regular communication with China and continues applying pressure, then the Rohingyas can get Myanmar citizenship and also get basic human rights we hope.”
Bajrus Alam from Rohingya Camp 26 said that UNHCR representatives met camp-based Rohingya leaders in the Shalbagan camp hall-room on Monday morning
According to the list cleared by Myanmar, Rohingyas from camp 24, 25, 26, and 27 are due for repatriation. After the meeting on Monday, the heads of these families are due to attend another meeting in the camp on Tuesday. In the meeting they will be informed that they will not be repatriated forcefully, and that Myanmar will provide them all the promised facilities. So, returning to Myanmar willfully will benefit the Rohingyas.
Muhammad Nur, secretary of Kutupalong camp management committee, said that persecuted Rohingyas have been coming to Bangladesh even before the 1990s. Nearly 50,000 Rohingyas took shelter in the country in 2012. Then a large number of oppressed Rohingyas came to Bangladesh in 2017. All these Rohingyas have been housed together and provided aid, but this assistance is inadequate in comparison to their needs.
“Only the victims know how difficult it is for five to ten people to live in a 10 by 12 feet or 15 by 20 feet house made of polythene. So, we will go back to Myanmar as early as tomorrow if we are given even our basic rights,” he added.
Other sources say that, for the first time, Bangladesh and Myanmar are working together for the repatriation of the Rohingyas. Preparation is underway to repatriate 3,450 Rohingyas by August 22. Though there is some concern about the success of the plan, Bangladesh has taken all necessary steps at the field level for the repatriation.
Cox’s Bazar Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Md Abul Kalam said, “Lists of 22,432 and 25,007 Rohingyas have been given to Myanmar. Among them 3,450 Rohingyas have been cleared by Myanmar for repatriation. Whatever happens, the inauguration of the repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar is a positive thing. We want to wait till the end. We have completed all preparations at the field level for this. The task force members held a meeting on this issue on Sunday.”
Speaking at a program in Dhaka on Sunday, Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque said, “Repatriation will begin any day. Many initiatives are going on behind the scenes, but all these are not bound to be successful. We are encouraging the Rohingyas to go back to their country. Repatriation is also the main goal of the Rohingyas. They will lose all their rights if they don’t go back there.”
It should be noted here that, two thousand Rohingyas agreed to go back to Myanmar in November last year. But, the process halted when they backed off because they were not given any assurance about citizenship or security.
More than 7.5 lakh Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh after August 25, 2017. Before that more than five lakh Rohingyas had already taken shelter in different areas of Bangladesh. All these Rohingyas were gathered and given shelter in 31 camps in Ukhia and in Teknaf. Then diplomatic initiatives were launched to repatriate them. But the repatriation process could not be launched despite repeated attempts.
Myanmar did not follow through with their promises for taking them back at the end of last year and at the beginning of this year. The government of Myanmar did not include the Rohingyas in the list of people of 135 ethnicities recognized as minorities.
Ghumdhum Friendship Bridge at the border in Naikhyangchhari upazila and Keruntali Repatriation Pier at the Naf River in Teknaf have been readied for the process. A wooden bridge beside the border in Keruntali and 33 semi-brick houses and four latrines were also built for this purpose. Members of 16 Ansar Battalion are in charge of looking after these establishments.