25 August 2019:
In view of Myanmar’s repeated claim that they are prepared to receive the displaced persons and the recent interactions of a high-level delegation from Myanmar with the representatives of displaced people at camps in Cox’s Bazar on 27-28 July 2019 to convince the displaced people to return, Bangladesh agreed to facilitate the commencement of repatriation on 22 August 2019. In line with its commitment to the principle of voluntary return, the Government of Bangladesh handed the list of 3,450 individuals so far verified by Myanmar to UNHCR through the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Dhaka on 8 August 2019 to ascertain whether these people are ready to return voluntarily to northern Rakhine under the present circumstances. The Government of Bangladesh ensured all necessary arrangements in Bangladesh side including security and logistics for voluntary return of Rohingyas to northern Rakhine.
Out of the list of 3,450 Rohingyas provided by Bangladesh, UNHCR interviewed 339 families comprising 1,276 individuals till 22 August 2019. In the interview process, all available information and the fact-sheets provided by the Government of Myanmar were shared with the families concerned. Moreover, adequate measures including security arrangements were ensured so that the people concerned could freely express their intent. Unfortunately, none of the families interviewed agreed to return in the present circumstances, as they consider the security situation and overall environment in Rakhine not yet conducive for their return. Almost all the families interviewed expressed their deep concern over the security situation in Rakhine. Overwhelming majority of the families underscored the lack of progress in addressing justice and rights related issues including citizenship, freedom of movement, and land-use rights. All families interviewed have reaffirmed their desire to return, once their concerns are reasonably addressed by the Government of Myanmar. Diplomats from Chinese and Myanmar Embassies in Dhaka were present in Cox’s Bazar on 21-22 August 2019 to monitor the entire repatriation process, including the preparations of the Government of Bangladesh.
During the recent interactions with the high-level delegation from Myanmar led by Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 27-28 July 2019, the representatives of the displaced Myanmar Residents called for international civilian monitors’ presence in northern Rakhine to guarantee security and to monitor the repatriation and reintegration process. Myanmar delegation also agreed to continue dialogues with the displaced people at frequent intervals to find mutually acceptable solutions, at the earliest possible, on core issues including granting of fundamental rights and citizenship. Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh expressed utter dismay that Myanmar delegation was unable to report any progress concerning citizenship, rights, and security for their return to northern Rakhine.
As per bilateral instruments on repatriation, the responsibility of encouraging the displaced people to opt for voluntary return lies entirely on Myanmar. It is Myanmar’s responsibility to create a conducive environment in Rakhine through decisive actions and to reduce trust-deficit of Rohingyas through appropriate measures including dissemination of authentic information on the ground reality. The non-commencement of repatriation due to unwillingness of the people concerned could therefore be attributed to the failure of the Government of Myanmar in fulfilling its obligations.
In fact, the Government of Myanmar needs to take decisive actions with demonstrable political will to reasonably address the core concerns of Rohingyas in line with the spirit and provisions of the bilateral instruments on repatriation and the recommendations of the “Advisory Commission on Rakhine State” in order to create a conducive environment for return in northern Rakhine. The Government of Myanmar must also assume its responsibility to encourage Rohingyas to opt for voluntary return by sharing authentic information with them in all possible ways. Unsubstantiated claims on the part of the Government of Myanmar are not going to contribute to repatriation.
The Government of Bangladesh maintains its principled position of not preventing anyone, regardless of one’s ethnic and religious identity, who intends to return to Myanmar anytime.
Accusing Bangladesh of non-cooperation in the repatriation effort by a party who is fully responsible for the protracted crisis is baseless, ill-motivated and totally unacceptable. The Government of Bangladesh urges the Government of Myanmar to fully concentrate on implementation of its obligations and commitments necessary for a durable solution of the problem. The Government of Myanmar should seriously consider a comprehensive engagement of the international community in the creating of an environment conducive for their return as well as in the monitoring of repatriation and reintegration process in Myanmar.