DVB Multimedia Group

Burma, Bangladesh prepare to discuss refugee repatriation

Rohingya refugees wait for aid in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on 20 September 2017. (Photo: Reuters)

The Burmese and Bangladeshi governments have confirmed that they will form a committee to screen those who fled across the border to Bangladesh during the recent Arakan Crisis to determine who qualifies to return to Burma.

According to Burmese minister Dr. Win Myat Aye, the plan to establish a joint committee is the result of talks during his visit to Bangladesh alongside the Burmese chairman of the Implementation Committee for Recommendations on Arakan. He said that Bangladesh’s home affairs minister would reciprocate with a visit to Burma on 23 October.

“The committee will be appointed during the visit of the Bangladeshi home affairs minister next week,” said Win Myat Aye. “Burmese government representatives led by Union Minister Kyaw Tint Swe have already been to Bangladesh for discussions. Now, [a delegation from Dhaka] will come here to discuss matters concerning repatriation. After that, we will establish the relevant committee.”

Speaking to DVB, Dr. Win Myat Aye said, “During the Bangladeshi home affairs minister’s visit, we will also discuss the process for repatriation. It won’t take us long [to agree this] and we will start immediately.”

He indicated to DVB that the Burmese government expects that people at the two refugee camps in Taungpyoletwe and Nga Khu villages will be first to be screened due to their accessibility and good transportation conditions.

According to a 1993 agreement between Burma and Bangladesh, ​refugees​ ​can​ only ​return​ ​if they can prove Burmese​ ​citizenship, either with ​identity cards​, ​national​ ​registration​ ​cards or ​other​ official ​documents​ ​issued​ ​by​ the ​relevant Burmese​ ​authorities, such as ​evidence​ ​of​ ​their​ ​residence​ ​in​ ​Burma.

Burma’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has also announced a new committee, called the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Arakan State, which will oversee all foreign and domestic assistance in Arakan and the repatriation effort.

Burmese authorities have now initiated a programme to construct new houses in areas of concern in northwestern Arakan, beginning with homes for affected ethnic Mro people in Kondaing village, Maungdaw Township.

The overwhelming majority of the half million refugees recently arrived in Bangladesh are self-identifying Rohingya families.