Bangladesh, Myanmar form joint working group for repatriation of Rohingya refugees

Special Bangladesh, Myanmar form joint working group for repatriation of Rohingya refugees
A Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Sept.19, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 December 2017

Bangladesh, Myanmar form joint working group for repatriation of Rohingya refugees

Bangladesh, Myanmar form joint working group for repatriation of Rohingya refugees

DHAKA: Bangladesh and Myanmar formed a 30-member joint working group (JWG) for the repatriation of Rohingya refugees after a bilateral meeting in Dhaka on Tuesday.
The JWG will be led by the foreign secretaries of the two countries. Diplomats and analysts in Dhaka have expressed deep concern about the plight of Rohingya refugees after recent operations in Myanmar.
The bilateral meeting at a state guesthouse in Dhaka was led by Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Huq and Myanmar Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Ministry Myint Thu. The two officials will also lead the JWG for their respective countries.
Talking to the media after the meeting, Huq said the JWG will make arrangements for the repatriation of refugees through verification, time scheduling, transport and logistics and reception procedure. The JWG will also update the respective governments quarterly about progress on the issue.
The two countries had earlier agreed to constitute the JWG and signed a bilateral agreement on Nov. 23 in Myanmar during a visit by Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmud Ali.
“The modalities of the JWG are not yet clear,” said Humayun Kabir, former Bangladesh ambassador to the US. “Considering the current situation in Rakhine State, I do not find enough reason to be optimistic regarding the repatriation process.
Speaking to Arab News, he said: “Today in a joint press meet, the Turkish prime minister also stressed the importance of constant international pressure on Myanmar to solve the crisis but it seems that Bangladesh is exploring bilateral solutions. The international community is deeply concerned over the Rohingya refugee issue and all that we need to do now is to channel this effort of the international community.”
Professor Akmol Hossain, an expert on regional politics at Dhaka University, told Arab News, “The formation of JWG is already late. According to the agreement signed on Nov. 23, it was supposed to be constituted within three weeks of the date of signing of the agreement and the repatriation process was supposed to commence in two months from Nov. 23. Now it is not clear when the actual repatriation would start. Myanmar’s response currently makes the success of the JWG doubtful.
“Myanmar has also not agreed to take back the Rohingyas who took shelter in Bangladesh before 2016 while Dhaka wanted to repatriate all the refugees.”
Hossain urged Bangladesh to approach China to seek a “sustainable solution of the crisis” as China had always advocated “a bilateral solution.”
According to the UN, about 655,000 Rohingya refugees have taken shelter in Bangladesh since the violence escalated in Rakhine State on Aug. 25.