Bangladesh indicates Rohingya repatriation could be delayed

Press TV- A deal signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar for the repatriation of Rohingya Muslim refugees into their homeland in Myanmar’s state of Rakhine may not be implemented soon, authorities in Bangladesh have suggested.

A Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday that the January 21 deadline set as the date for the start of repatriation process may not be met and that the return process could start a few weeks later or so.

The official made the comments after attending a meeting of the representatives of Bangladesh and Myanmar in Dhaka, where authorities agreed to set up a joint working group to oversee the repatriation of Rohingya Muslims who fled violence in Myanmar.

More than 630,000 have arrived in Bangladesh since August when a renewed crackdown began on members of the community. Many villages and towns populated by the Muslims were torched and looted after suspected Rohingya militants attacked police and border posts in Rakhine.

Under immense international pressure, Myanmar agreed to a repatriation process last month and said it would guarantee a halt in outflow of refugees and restore peace to Rakhine. The government also pledged as part of the November agreement with Bangladesh to encourage refugees to return voluntarily and safely to their original places of residence or places they deem appropriate.

Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque (R) shakes hand with his counterpart from Myanmar U Myint Thu after signing a Terms of Reference on Rohingya repatriation in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 19 December, 2017. (AFP photo)

The United Nations and rights groups have warned that hasty return of refugees may expose them to similar violence.

The repatriation mechanism agreed between Myanmar and Bangladesh follows a formula set in a 1992 when Muslims were forced out of their homes. Rohingyas have suffered prosecution and violence in Myanmar over the years as the Buddhist-dominated military and the government refuse to grant them their right to citizenship, even though the minority group has existed in the country for generations.