Amid no visible progress over Rohingya repatriation, Myanmar on Thursday assured Bangladesh of accelerating verification process to start repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh to Myanmar.
“We’re here for that and we’ll accelerate the (verification) process,” Permanent Secretary at Myanmar Foreign Ministry Myint Thu told reporters when his attention was drawn about delay in Rohingya verification process.
Bangladesh handed over a list of 1,673 Rohingya families (8,032 individuals) to Myanmar on February 16 to start the first phase of repatriation of Rohingyas to their homeland in Rakhine state.
Myanmar has so far verified less than 900 Rohingyas out of 8,032 names of Rohingyas after verification in several steps, an official told UNB.
Myint Thu said they will work hand in hand with Bangladesh to address the challenges and hoped that they will start the repatriation in the near future.
Earlier, Bangladesh and Myanmar held a marathon meeting at state guesthouse Meghna that continued even after lunch starting from 11 am.
Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque and his Myanmar counterpart Myint Thu led their respective sides at the meeting.
Bangladesh proposed to visit Rakhine State to see the progress, if any, there for safe return of Rohingyas but Myanmar side says time is yet to come for such visit, said an official who attended the meeting.
Myint Thu said they need to work to promote awareness about repatriation and mentioned that they will be providing information to Bangladesh regarding repatriation complexities.
“We’ll be having more meeting and then we’ll set out mechanism to commence repatriation,” he said.
Terming Rohingya repatriation very complex and difficult, Bangladesh said it is trying to work together with Myanmar for quick repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh to Myanmar.
“You know such repatriation is always very complex and difficult matter. But we feel this repatriation starts as early as possible. We don’t have any disagreement over it,” Foreign Secreatry M Shahidul Haque told reporters at state guesthouse Meghna on Thursday afternoon.
“There is progress in our discussion. Both Bangladesh and Myanmar sides realised the need for quick repatriation of Rohingyaa,” he said adding that they discussed all the issues related to Rohingya repatriation.
The Foreign Secretary said both sides – Bangladesh and Myanmar – are trying to work together to make sure that repatriation process gets expedited.
Responding to a question, Bangladesh will be handing over new list of Rohingyas. “Let’s hope for the best. We’re hopeful.”
“We raised all issues. We wanted to know what they are doing in Rakhine State for the smooth return of Rohingyas,” a senior official told UNB who attended the meeting.
He said the Myanmar side could not give any satisfactory reply on many issues Bangladesh side raised.
Responding to a question, the official said Myanmar could not complete verification of first list. “So, there’s no hurry to place second list. I don’t know how much time they will take to verify others mentioned in the first list.”
The Bangladesh side emphasized on creating conducive environment in Rakhine State including safety and security of the returnees, rebuilding villages, access to livelihood, and freedom of movement and so on, said a Foreign Ministry media statement.
Both sides, it said, exchanged information on the preparation for starting the repatriation and implementation of bilateral agreements signed between the two countries.
The JWG discussed relevant details as to the involvement of UN agencies particularly UNHCR and UNDP by both countries in the repatriation process. Myanmar is in the process of reaching an agreement with the UNHCR.
The meeting elaborately discussed the issue of National Verification Card (NVC). Bangladesh side sought clarification on the NVC process.
The Myanmar side assured that with the NVC card, which will be issued immediately upon return, the returnees will be able to pursue job in Rakhine State.
Bangladesh side emphasized on verifiable concrete information from Myanmar side, so that it could be shared with the Rohingyas in Bangladesh for building their confidence to go back to Northern Rakhine in Myanmar.
Both the sides agreed to start repatriation soon and expressed their resolve to work together for removing obstacles to implement the bilateral instruments on repatriation.
The JWG held the first meeting in Myanmar on January 15.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed the repatriation agreement on November 23, 2017. On January 16, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a document on ‘Physical Arrangement’ which will facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland from Bangladesh.
The ‘Physical Arrangement’ stipulates that the repatriation will be completed preferably within two years from the start of repatriation.
Bangladesh currently has a Rohingya population, which is far more than Bhutan’s entire population.
Bhutan has around 800,000 people whereas Bangladesh had to give shelter to some 1.2 million Rohingyas.