Rohingya repatriation: Pilot project targeted before monsoon

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News Desk

Bangladesh and Myanmar are working fast to start a pilot project for the long-awaited Rohingya repatriation before the monsoon, officials say.

Bangladesh has already handed over a list of more than 1,000 Rohingya citizens for repatriation. On the other hand, the Myanmar government is speedily verifying it. Besides, the country is arranging rehabilitation for the Rohingyas in Rakhine.

According to sources, Myanmar wants to start the pilot project quickly to increase the acceptance of the military junta under pressure from the international community.

The two countries want to start repatriation as the Rakhine situation is now better than ever. Security, livelihood, education and health conditions for the Muslims in Rakhine have improved greatly.

Bangladesh, which hosts over one million Rohingya refugees who fled Rakhine in 2017, has long been urging the international community to pressurize Myanmar to speed up the repatriation process.

To monitor the situation firsthand, Myanmar recently arranged a visit for the ambassadors or consul generals of 11 countries — Bangladesh, India, China and eight Asean countries — to Rakhine.

Among them, they visited places including Nakhua Reception Center opposite Teknaf and a nearby village, an internal displacement camp in Sittwe and another internal displacement camp in Chakto region.

The visiting envoys have observed that the security situation in Rakhine is now stable. It is favorable to start the repatriation process. Apart from this, the issue has become easier as India, China and other Asean countries have agreed on the solution to this problem.

Why a pilot project
As the number of Rohingyas staying in Bangladesh is very large, all parties want to send a small number of citizens to initially assess the situation.

According to a source in this regard, everyone wants to start the main repatriation process after considering the pros and cons of the pilot project. If the piloting is successful, it will help speed up the main repatriation process.

Repatriation before monsoon
The monsoon season will start in the next few months. Myanmar and Bangladesh are working towards starting repatriation before that.

In this regard, a source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the verification process of the list of Rohingyas given for repatriation under the pilot project will be completed at the earliest.

The returnee Rohingya nationals will be received at two reception centres in Myanmar. These centres have already been completed.

After staying there for up to 24 hours, the Rohingyas will be taken to a transit camp, where several thousand Rohingyas can stay together.

After staying in the camp for a week to a month, they will be sent back to their homes.

Benefits for Muslims
The security situation of Muslims is better than ever before and steps have been taken to maintain peace in Rakhine. Apart from this, there has been improvement in livelihood, health and education facilities.

An official of the ministry, who did not wish to be named, said that 200 Muslim students were admitted to Sittwe University last year after a hiatus of nine years. Many Muslim students have been admitted this year as well. As a result, the educational facilities for the Muslims have increased a lot.

The overall health system in Rakhine has not developed much and this applies to everyone, the official said. But Muslims can access medical treatment. On the other hand, some Arakanese people want to come to Bangladesh for treatment.

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