Bangladesh and Myanmar Tuesday agreed on to begin repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims from Bangladesh by November.
“We are looking forward to start the repatriation by mid-November,” Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque told reporters in Dhaka after a meeting with Myanmar delegation led by senior foreign ministry official Myint Thu.
Myint Thu hailed what he called a “very concrete result on the commencement of the repatriation”.
“We have put in place a number of measures to make sure that the returnees will have a secure environment for their return,” he told reporters.
This news came less than a week after U.N. investigators warned of the continuing genocide against the Muslim minority in Myanmar.
More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees crossed from the west of mostly Buddhist Myanmar into Bangladesh from August last year to flee the brutal military crackdown which resulted in them being stateless.
The Rohingya families who fled Myanmar have been living in overcrowded makeshift camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district.
Rights groups and Rohingya community leaders say conditions back in the north of Myanmar’s Rakhine State, where most of the refugees are from, are not ready for a repatriation. The leaders said that they will not return without various demands being met.
“We have some demands but the government of Myanmar didn’t do anything to meet them. How can we go back?” Mohib Ullah, a Rohingya leader now living in southeast Bangladesh, told Reuters.
“What about our citizenships, our rights and our demand to go back to our land ... our own houses?”
This is the second time that the two countries reached a deal. Previously in November 2017, Myanmar and Bangladesh decided to begin repatriation within two months, but it has not started.
U.N. investigators issued a report in August accusing Myanmar’s military of acting with “genocidal intent” and calling for the country’s commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing, and five generals to be prosecuted under international law.
Given the delays in repatriation, Bangladesh has been preparing new homes on a remote island called Bhasan Char, which rights groups have said could be subject to flooding.