DHAKA: Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed on early repatriation of more than 5,000 Rohingya refugees who have been living along the countries’ borders since being driven from their homes last year.
The agreement came during a two-day visit to Myanmar by Bangladesh Foreign Minister Mahmood Ali, who held talks with his Myanmar counterpart Kyaw Tint Swe in the capital Naypyitaw.
Ali ended his visit on Saturday with a journey to Mongduw township in Rakhine along with his 15-member delegation. He was accompanied by Win Myat Aye, Myanmar’s social welfare, relief and resettlement minister.
Rohingya refugees fled to Bangladesh in August last year after a military crackdown in Rakhine.
Myanmar state counsellor’s office announced the agreement on its official Facebook page.
The ministers’ meeting agreed to establish a hotline phone link between the foreign ministers to allow further discussion on the repatriation of refugees.
“Both ministers reiterated their commitment to closer consultation in resolving the issue of displaced persons from Rakhine state in the spirit of good neighborliness,” the Myanmar authority said.
No specific date has been set for the return of the refugees.
Both countries agreed to distribute verification forms to refugees at Cox’s Bazar. Signatures, fingerprints and photo IDs will be included to indicate voluntary return and help with Myanmar’s “verification process,” the authority said.
“Bangladesh has agreed to revise the language used in the ID cards being issued to those who are currently residing in Cox’s Bazar,” it said.
No further details are known in this regard and Bangladesh media is waiting for the return of its foreign minister to get the update of the changes in the ID cards issued to the Rohingya refugees.
According to the meeting, “any humanitarian aid given to those inhabiting the area on Myanmar’s territory should be given by the aid agencies from Myanmar,” the state counsellor’s office said.
Thein Swe, Myanmar minister for labor, immigration and population, also held a meeting with Win Myat Aye.
Myanmar signed an agreement with Bangladesh on Nov. 23 last year to repatriate the displaced Rohingyas of northern Rakhine. The agreement followed international criticism over the persecution of the Rohigyas, which the UN described as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
The Myanmar government has given two UN agencies, UNHCR and UNDP, access to 23 villages in Rakhine to conduct the preliminary assessment, according to the Myanmar Times, which quoted the country’s foreign ministry.
On June 6, Myanmar signed an MoU with UNHCR and UNDP regarding preparation for the repatriation of the Rohingyas.