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What happens now that the Rohingya repatriation deal has been signed?

(Photo: Reuters)

By Sheikh Shahariar Zaman
January 17, 2018

Some 655,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh fleeing the violence which erupted in Myanmar on August 25, 2017

The documents and agreements needed for the repatriation of Rohingyas have all been finalized.

The governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement on November 23, 2017 to repatriate the Rohingyas.

A Joint Working Group was formed on December 19 of the same year under the terms and conditions of the bilateral arrangement signed between the two countries.

Later on Tuesday (January 16), Bangladesh and Myanmar finalized the physical arrangement agreement. Under the agreement, the countries agreed to complete the repatriation of displaced Rohingyas within two years.

With signing of the agreement, all the legal procedure for the repatriation of Rohingyas have been completed but now question arises if the process to send back the displaced people to Myanmar will start right away.

As per the experts, the repatriation of displaced Rohingyas may not start now. Rather, the process will need more time.

What happens now?

Former foreign secretary Mohammad Touhid Hossain said: “There are two challenges now.

“Firstly, we will have to keep mounting pressure on Myanmar and secondly, bring back confidence among the Rohingyas so that they agree to return to their homeland.”

He said: “The oppression on the Rohingyas has been a recurring problem. It has occurred in 1978, 1992, 2012, 2016, and most recently in August 2017.

“They [Myanmar government] are now saying that they will take back the people who entered Bangladesh after October 2016, and will decide about the other people later.”

He added: “If they had to take the Rohingyas back, then why did they drive them away?”

“The most important question is how do we trust Myanmar when they are repeatedly breaking our trust?”

Touhid Hossain said: “One of the main clauses of the repatriation agreement of 1978 and 1992 was that the Myanmar government will take steps to ensure that the Rohingyas do not flee to Bangladesh.”

The former foreign secretary added that bilateral and international pressure will have to be continued on the Myanmar government.

He said Myanmar will have to build confidence among the Rohingya population by assuring that they will not be persecuted and be able to live there properly.

Former defence attaché to Myanmar Shahidul Hoque also emphasized building confidence among the Rohingyas.

He said: “The Rohingyas need to be informed of their housing and food status, their nationality, their means of livelihood. The two governments are already discussing these matters, and it needs to be conveyed to the Rohingya refugees so that they feel secure.”

Regarding the repatriation, Shahidul said: “UN refugee agency and other international agencies have to be involved in the process to solve the problem effectively.

“Myanmar will lose interest in the repatriation of the Rohingyas if the international community decreases their pressure on the country.”

According to the International Organization for Migration, some 655,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh fleeing the violence which erupted in Myanmar on August 25, 2017, taking the total number of refugees to at least 868,000.

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