Bangladesh, Myanmar agree to repatriate Rohingyas

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Bangladesh and Myanmar have reached consensus to complete the process of returning hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who had fled to Bangladesh preferably within two years.

As part of a repatriation deal signed by the two Asian neighbours in November past year, Bangladesh and Myanmar officials at a joint meeting in Naypyidaw on Tuesday agreed on plans to facilitate the return of those displaced since August.

Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an initial agreement in November to repatriate the Rohingya, and the 30-member working group was set up last month to oversee the process.

More than 650,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims have fled a military crackdown. The UN High Commission for Refugees stated that the underlying causes of the crisis needed to be addressed before the Rohingya feel is it safe for them to return.

Doctors without Borders said more than 6,700 Rohingya, including at least 730 children under the age of five, were killed in the first month of the crackdown.

"There are previous episodes of displacement and return of the Rohingya, and other ethnic minorities, in Burma over the last 20 years which do not inspire confidence", a report by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan stated.

"The worst would be to move these people from camps in Bangladesh to camps in Myanmar, keeping an artificial situation for a long time and not allowing for them to regain their normal lives".

The Rohingya minority has been denied citizenship and other rights in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

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In the meeting, according to the press release, Myanmar reiterated its commitment to stop outflow of Myanmar residents to Bangladesh.

Though Myanmar says it would provide citizenship to some Rohingya, they have no reason to trust Myanmar, said Asif Munier.

However, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was said to have objected to the idea of "pushing back" the Rohingyas and insisted that they should be arrested instead.

There are more than 3,00,000 Rohingyas living in Bangladesh, who fled in earlier waves of violence from the Myanmarese Government since the last three decades.

Before the crisis, it was believed that 1.1 million Rohingya lived in Myanmar, predominantly in the Rakhine State.

"Major challenges have to be overcome", Andrej Mahecic, spokesman of the UNHCR told a news briefing in Geneva. Modalities for repatriation of orphans and children born out of unwarranted incidence have also been incorporated in the arrangement.

Rohingya freedom of movement must be lifted, and the 160,000 Rohingya internally displaced now housed in poor conditions in camps inside Myanmar must also be allowed home.