Deal aims to repatriate refugees ‘within two years’


Rohingya men watch a Hindi romance film at a makeshift cafe in the Jamtoli refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 12 December 2017. Photo: EPA-EFE

Myanmar and Bangladesh have agreed to repatriate hundreds of thousands of displaced Rohingya within a two-year period, Dhaka said Tuesday, the first concrete timeline given for the refugees' return despite many refusing to go back to their homeland.

The deal, hammered out in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw this week, applies to approximately 750,000 Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh following two army crackdowns in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state in October 2016 and August last year.

Both campaigns followed attacks by terrorists from the stateless Muslim minority against border-guard posts.

A statement by the Bangladeshi government said the agreement aims to return Rohingya "within two years from the commencement of repatriation" but did not give a date for when refugees will start returning.

The deal does not cover the estimated 200,000 Rohingya refugees who were living in Bangladesh prior to October 2016, driven out by previous rounds of communal violence and military operations.

It comes even as many Rohingya in the crowded, unsanitary camps in Bangladesh say they will not return to Rakhine, having fled alleged atrocities including murder, rape and arson attacks on their homes.

Dhaka said Tuesday the countries had finally agreed on the form refugees will need to fill out to verify their belonging in Rakhine state.

While thin on details, the statement said verification would be based on "family units" and include orphans and "children born out of unwarranted incidence."

Myanmar's government later issued its own statement saying the sides had agreed to begin the repatriation process from January 23, though Bangladesh's ambassador to Myanmar, Mohammad Sufiur Rahman, told AFP earlier that the physical movement of people would need more time.

© AFP

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