Myanmar And Bangladesh Agree To 2-Year Timeframe For Rohingya Return

Bangladesh Nurse

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 of December 2017, an estimated 6,55,000 Rohingya people fled to Bangladesh to avoid the persecution from the security forces that started in Myanmar's Rakhine state in August previous year.

"We are planning ahead to be able accept the returnees from next week and we are sure that this will be done on time", said Win Myat Aye, Myanmar's minister of social welfare, relief and resettlement, according to The Associated Press.

Rohingyas are a Muslim minority ethnic group in Myanmar.

Security agencies must try to prevent the entry of illegal migrants because it would be very hard to deport them once they cross over, Union home minister Rajnath Singh had said during a border management meeting in Kolkata with chief ministers of eastern and northeastern states that share borders with Bangladesh.

A Rohingya refugee stands in a displaced-persons camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, earlier this month.

Many Rohingya in the crowded, unsanitary camps in Bangladesh say they will not return to Rakhine, having fled atrocities including murder, rape and arson attacks on their homes.

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"The health and safety of more than 520,000 Rohingya children living in overcrowded camps and informal settlements in Bangladesh is likely to be put at even greater risk ahead of upcoming cyclone and monsoon seasons", the United Nations agency said on Tuesday.

Officials plan to start the repatriation process from January 23.

Eventually the site "will accommodate about 30,000 people in its 625 buildings" before they can be resettled permanently, Myanmar's state media reported this week.

Mohammad Farouk, 20, who fled from Maungdaw, said exchanging one camp for another made little difference - except "the camps in Myanmar will be far worse, because we will be confined there and there will be a risk to our lives". It's progress on a deal the countries struck in November, but there's still no details on how many Rohingya would be let back in, or if their safety would be guaranteed.

"UNCHR and our partners need urgent, unhindered access in Rakhine state in order to assess the situation and provide support to those in need", UNCHR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said in Geneva.

The number of Rohingya sent back every week will increase after three months, Rahman said.

"Why are basic issues like citizenship, freedom of movement and livelihoods not discussed now so refugees can make informed choices?"

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