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15 November, 2018 11:57:57 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 16 November, 2018 10:19:31 AM

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Bangladesh won’t send back Rohingyas forcibly, says FM

STAFF REPORTER, Dhaka
Bangladesh won’t send back Rohingyas forcibly, says FM

Foreign minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali yesterday said Bangladesh has no intention to forcibly repatriate the Rohingyas who had taken refuge in Bangladesh fleeing persecution by the Myanmar army in their own country. “We are not in favour of forced repatriation.

We have visited Myanmar's Rakhine state from where the Rohingyas have been displaced. The Indian government has already constructed 250 houses for them in Maungdaw. They will set up more 500 houses there. But only a home is not enough. They also need healthcare facilities and schools for their children,” he also said.

The minister came up with the statement after yesterday’s scheduled repatriation of the first batch of at least 150 Rohingyas, comprising 30 families, failed as the selected refugees fled respective camps since they are reluctant to leave fearing renewed atrocities back home. Briefing journalists at Padma, the state guest house in the capital, after a meeting with foreign diplomats, Mahmood Ali said they had talked about the repatriation of Rohingyas, the upcoming general election, the current political situation and the dialogue between the Prime Minister and political parties.

“Rumours are being spread that the Bangladesh government is sending the Rohingyas back forcibly to Myanmar. But we're not doing that,” he reiterated.

He also said that Bangladesh had urged China and India to build houses at Maungdaw from where the Rohingyas were evicted. He further said that Japan had suggested that Bangladesh should send a Majhi (Rohingya leader), with the backing of the UNHCR, to Mongue to assess the overall situation there. The government is considering the proposal, he added.

The minister said that Singapore too had offered support in the Rohingya repatriation process.

In reply to a query about whether the Rohingya repatriation has been halted, Mahmood Ali said: “It is a matter of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner.”

Regarding the presence of foreign observers during the national election, the minister said: “Those who want to send observers are free to do so. If the foreign observers cannot come to see the election, their local representatives at the embassies in Bangladesh can

apply to be observers.”  Earlier in the day, officials of the local administration and the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC) have failed to start the repatriation of Rohingyas listed for being sent home to Myanmar, the country they had fled in the face of army brutality.

Most of those identified for repatriation were living in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. Their return journey was supposed to begin yesterday (Thursday), but they were reluctant to leave, fearing renewed atrocities back home.

As per the decision of the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar, the repatriation of the first batch of at least 150 Rohingyas, comprising 30 families, was due to begin yesterday morning to their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. But the listed Rogingyas refused to go back, citing security concerns, and staged a demonstration inside the Unchiprang Rohingya camp in Teknaf.

During the agitation, the Rohingyas held placards that read: “We will never return to Myanmar without our citizenship and our rights. We want justice.”

RRRC commissioner Abul Kalam Azad said that they requested the Rohingyas  in the Unchiprang camp to cooperate and waited till 2pm yesterday, but no one showed any interest in going back to their country.

“We extended the time till 4pm yesterday for repatriation. But the Rogingyas didn’t respond. We cannot send them home against their will,” he also said.

“As per the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by UNHCR high commissioner Filippo Grandi and foreign secretary Shahidul Haque, we cannot force any one of them back to their country,” he added.

“We are under the radar of the whole world. The world is closely monitoring the Rohingya repatriation issue. The world wants to see that Bangladesh is not forcing any Rohingya to go back their home against their will,” he also said.

“We will be able to send them back only if they agree to cooperate voluntarily,” he added.

For the repatriation, the authorities concerned had recently handed over a list of 2,260 Rohingyas to the UNHCR for its assessment.

UNHCR spokesperson Joseph Tripura told this correspondent that they were yet to complete the assessment by interviewing each of the Rohingyas individually. The exercise had begun on Tuesday.  “We should not send back the Rohingyas to their country against their will,” he said.

Talking to The Independent, Cox’s Bazar deputy commissioner (DC) Kamal Hossain had earlier said the the repatriation of the Rohingyas might be delayed because the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was not fully convinced about their safety in Myanmar.

On April 13 last year, the MoU was signed by the UNHCR high commissioner and the Bangladesh foreign secretary on the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Rohingyas in line with international standards.

On November 23, 2017, Myanmar and Bangladesh had signed an agreement titled ‘Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine state’ during the Bangladesh foreign minister’s visit to Myanmar.

More than 655,000 Rohingyas have crossed over to Bangladesh since August 25 last year after a military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

IK

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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