Myanmar, Bangladesh Sign Rohingya Return Deal

Myanmar, Bangladesh Sign Rohingya Return DealMyanmar, Bangladesh Sign Rohingya Return Deal

Bangladesh and Myanmar have signed a deal for the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees, who have taken shelter in the border town of Cox's Bazar after a brutal crackdown by the military. Myanmar's Foreign Ministry confirmed the signing of the agreement on Thursday, without releasing further details, AL Jazeera reported.

The agreement comes after Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi met Bangladesh's foreign minister to resolve one of the biggest refugee crisis of modern times.

More than 620,000 people have poured into Bangladesh since August, running from a Myanmar military crackdown that the US said this week clearly constitutes "ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya". The talks between Aung San Suu Kyi and her Bangladeshi counterpart come in advance of a highly anticipated visit to both nations by Pope Francis, who has been outspoken about his sympathy for the plight of the Rohingya.

"I didn't find any clear statement how these refugees will be repatriated. I'm not sure whether they will be allowed to return to their original village," Rohingya activist Nay San Lwin told Al Jazeera. "It looks like they will be placed in the temporary camps, and later the refugees will be locked up in the camps for a long time like the Rohingya in Sittwe for more than five years now.

"Myanmar minister for resettlement and welfare said they will repatriate maximum 300 refugees a day. So it can take up to two decades to repatriate all those refugees."

San Lwin said refugees should not return if their citizenship and basic rights are not guaranteed.

Myanmar and Bangladesh have struggled to settle on the details, including how many Rohingya will be allowed back in violence-scorched Rakhine State, where hundreds of villages have been burned. Last week Myanmar's military chief Min Aung Hlaing said it was "impossible to accept the number of persons proposed by Bangladesh".

Rendered stateless, Rohingya have been the target of communal violence and vicious anti-Muslim sentiment for years. They have also been systematically oppressed by the government, which stripped the minority of citizenship and severely restricts their movement, as well as their access to basic services.

  Conditions Not Yet in Place

Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said on Friday that conditions in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State “are not in place to enable safe and sustainable returns” of more than 620,000 Rohingya refugees, Reuters reported.

UNHCR said it had still not seen a repatriation agreement signed by the two countries on Thursday, but stressed that any returns by the “traumatized” group must be safe and voluntary.

Spokesman Adrian Edwards told a news briefing: “It is important that international standards apply, and we are ready to help.”


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