Rohingya repatriation: Bangladesh dismisses Myanmar’s non-cooperation

It is Naypyitaw’s job to create a conducive environment for the Rohingyas to return, says Dhaka

Bangladesh has dismissed outright Myanmar’s allegation of non-cooperation with regard to the beginning of the repatriation of the Rohingyas sheltering in Cox’s Bazar to escape the atrocities of the security forces of Naypyitaw.

It is the responsibility of Myanmar to create an environment where displaced Rohingyas feel safe to return to their homes, said Bangladesh.

“Accusations of non-cooperation in the repatriation effort against Bangladesh by a party who is fully responsible for the protracted crisis is baseless, ill-motivated, and totally unacceptable,” said a press statement issued by the Foreign Ministry on Sunday.

After the second attempt to begin the repatriation did not work out on Thursday, due to the unwillingness of the Rohingyas to return, owing to the failure of Myanmar to create favourable conditions, Naypyitaw accused Dhaka of being responsible for the failure.

“The Government of Bangladesh urges the Government of Myanmar to fully concentrate on the implementation of its obligations and commitments necessary for a durable solution of the problem,” said the Foreign Ministry statement.

“The Government of Myanmar should seriously consider a comprehensive engagement of the international community in creating an environment conducive to their [the Rohingyas] return, as well as in the monitoring of the repatriation and reintegration process in Myanmar,” it added.

“In fact, the Government of Myanmar needs to take decisive action with demonstrable political will to reasonably address the core concerns of Rohingyas, in line with the spirit and provision of bilateral instruments on repatriation, and the recommendations of the ‘Advisory Commission on Rakhine State,’ in order to create a conducive environment for return to northern Rakhine. The Government of Myanmar must also assume its responsibility to encourage Rohingyas to opt for voluntary return by sharing authentic information with them in all possible ways. Unsubstantiated claims on the part of the Government of Myanmar are not going to contribute to repatriation,” it further said.

In view of Myanmar’s repeated claim that they are prepared to receive the displaced persons, and the recent interactions of a high-level delegation from Myanmar with representatives of the displaced people at camps in Cox’s Bazar on July 27-28 this year, Bangladesh agreed to facilitate the commencement of repatriation on August 22, said the statement.

In line with its commitment to the principle of voluntary return, the Government of Bangladesh handed the list of 3,450 individuals so far verified by Myanmar to UNHCR through the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Dhaka on August 8, to ascertain whether these people are ready to return voluntarily to northern Rakhine under the present circumstances. The Government of Bangladesh ensured all necessary arrangements on the Bangladesh side, including security and logistics for the voluntary return of Rohingyas to northern Rakhine.

Out of the list of 3,450 Rohingyas provided by Bangladesh, UNHCR interviewed 339 families comprising 1,276 individuals, till August 22. In the interview process, all available information and the fact sheets provided by the Government of Myanmar, were shared with the families concerned. Moreover, a number of measures, including security arrangements, were taken so that the people concerned could freely express their intent. Unfortunately, none of the families interviewed agreed to return under the present circumstances, as they consider the security situation and overall environment in Rakhine not yet conducive for their return.

Almost all the families interviewed expressed their deep concern over the security situation in Rakhine. The overwhelming majority of families underscored the lack of progress in addressing justice and rights related issues, including citizenship, freedom of movement, and land use rights. All families interviewed have reaffirmed their desire to return, once their concerns are reasonably addressed by the Government of Myanmar. Diplomats from the Chinese and Myanmar Embassies in Dhaka were present in Cox’s Bazar from August 21-22 to monitor the entire repatriation process, including the preparations of the Government of Bangladesh.

During recent interactions from July 27-28, with the high-level delegation from Myanmar led by the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the representatives of the displaced Myanmar residents called for the presence of international civilian monitors in northern Rakhine to guarantee security and to monitor the repatriation and reintegration process. The Myanmar delegation also agreed to continue dialogue with the displaced people at frequent intervals, to find mutually acceptable solutions at the earliest possible time, on core issues, including the granting of fundamental rights and citizenship.

Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh expressed utter dismay that the Myanmar delegation was unable to report any progress concerning citizenship, rights, and security for their return to northern Rakhine.

As per bilateral instruments on repatriation, the responsibility of encouraging the displaced people to opt for voluntary return lies entirely with Myanmar. It is Myanmar’s responsibility to create an environment conducive to return to Rakhine, through decisive action to reduce the trust-deficit of Rohingyas, including dissemination of authentic information. The non-commencement of repatriation due to the unwillingness of the people concerned could therefore be attributed to the failure of the Government of Myanmar in fulfilling its obligations.

The Government of Bangladesh maintains its principled position of not preventing anyone who intends to return to Myanmar from doing so, regardless of ethnic and religious identity