Bangladesh Welcomes And Supports The Safe And Sustainable Repatriation Of Rohingyas – OpEd


The Rohingya crisis is becoming a protracted one and currently posing a threat to the security situation of Bangladesh and the region. So far not a single Rohingya has been repatriated to Myanmar in nearly six years. The only solution to the Rohingya crisis is to ensure the safe, voluntary, and dignified repatriation of the Rohingyas to Myanmar.

A sustainable solution to the Rohingya crisis is crucial not only for Bangladesh, but for the stability of the entire region. Bangladesh wants a speedy, safe and dignified repatriation of the Rohingyas to Myanmar. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh expects strong interest and active support from the international community for the safe, sustainable and dignified return of the Rohingyas.  Recently, Myanmar under a pilot project expressed their interest to take back more than 1000 Rohingyas from Bangladesh. Myanmar government informed that they have completed the necessary preparations for the repatriation of Rohingyas to Rakhine state and are keen to start the process in early May before the monsoons. Diplomatic sources reveal that Myanmar took this initiative in response to China’s on-going persuasion for undertaking the repatriation efforts.

On March 15, a 17-member delegation led by the regional director of Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maungdaw visited Bangladesh and returned to Myanmar on March 22 after verifying the necessary information through interviews with 429 Rohingyas. According to information received, the Myanmar government has undertaken a pilot project to create 15 new villages on 750 plots to house Rohingyas. The Rohingyas returned from Bangladesh will first be kept in a few camps and after verification they will be sent to these new villages. Total 1.2 million Rohingyas are now sheltered inside Bangladesh. This is a positive gesture but the process needs to be covering the repatriation of all the Rohingyas as soon as possible. After the successful implementation of this pilot project, Myanmar plans to repatriate another 5,000 Rohingyas. Rohingyas who have taken refuge in Bangladesh want to return to their own villages in Myanmar. They are not interested to return to Myanmar before their rights are guaranteed in a safe, dignified, voluntary and peaceful environment. 

The government of Bangladesh has been dealing with the Rohingya issue prudently and believes that the fastest repatriation of the Rohingyas to Myanmar will resolve this world’s biggest crisis. Bangladesh has requested the international community and UN organizations to play a stronger role in solving this crisis. From 2017 to 2023, the Rohingya problem has not been solved in this long period, now it became necessary to formulate a long-term plan to deal with this crisis and take the initiative to implement it. To speed up and sustain the Rohingya repatriation process the political will of the Myanmar government, the people of Myanmar, the local political parties of Myanmar and Arakan, the Buddhist organizations, and the civil society should be positive. To solve this crisis it is essential to bridge the gap between these stakeholders and the Rohingya community for creating a favorable environment and a place of trust. Efforts to change the attitude of the people of Myanmar especially in Rakhine State and increase the acceptance of Rohingyas should be continued through international organizations and community, UN, Rohingya migrant organizations, NLD and representatives of Arakan Army. Political will between the Myanmar government and people through friendly countries investing in Myanmar and by creating social appeal, Rohingya repatriation should be guaranteed.

The international community, migrant Rohingya leaders and Rohingya rights activist groups should take effective steps by engaging with the people and political parties of Rakhine State to soften their attitude towards the Rohingyas and accepting them there. The Arakan Rohingya National Alliance (ARNA) and other organizations working for the interest of the Rohingyas should coordinate with international and regional organizations to create a supportive environment for repatriation and continue the ongoing awareness activities undertaken to resolve the crisis.

The international community and donor agencies should enable the Rohingyas in the camps with the necessary education and training to join the mainstream population of Myanmar through training and skill development for future employment. The Myanmar government, as well as the international community, should take an active role in implementing the recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission to ensure the development of infrastructure, and employment opportunities and eliminate existing problems in Rakhine State. Regional countries should play an important role in solving this crisis by increasing humanitarian, political and financial support and cooperation. In case of any eventuality, emergency measures should be taken and reserves should be built up, to ensure an uninterrupted ongoing flow of relief and financial support. 

Rohingyas staying inside the camps in Myanmar are leading inhumane life. Due to the ongoing violence, the UN and other aid agencies are unable to carry out relief operations in Myanmar forcing the Rohingyas to survive in miserable conditions. Arrangements should be made to start this relief operation immediately. Repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar is the practical and permanent solution to this crisis. Many Rohingyas may be reluctant to repatriate as they currently have no idea about the facilities available in Myanmar after the post-repatriation. They have been safe for a long time in the camps in Bangladesh and are receiving relief aid. They don’t want to fall into uncertainty after going back to Myanmar.

To address this problem, the representatives of Myanmar can come to Cox’s Bazar camp and directly discuss with the Rohingyas and reassure them. The Myanmar authorities can take some Rohingya representatives to Rakhine and show the initiative and overall management for the repatriation. This will encourage the Rohingyas to return to Myanmar. During the initial days, Myanmar’s friendly countries or organizations, representatives of UN agencies, or voluntary organizations deployed in Myanmar to continue humanitarian assistance to the Rohingyas after their repatriation. It is expected to encourage the Rohingyas to return to the Rakhine state of Myanmar voluntarily. UNHCR informed that it is working with Myanmar authorities to repatriate Rohingyas to Myanmar. They will continue to work with Bangladesh and Myanmar to ensure the voluntary repatriation of the Rohingyas. UNHCR will support efforts to create favourable conditions for the sustainable repatriation of Rohingyas in Rakhine State of Myanmar.

UNHCR will continue to support the repatriation of Rohingyas staying inside Bangladesh and at the same time, they will support them in developing their skills and capacity building. Such initiatives and plans will act as a kind of safety net for the Rohingyas. This will pave the way for credible and sustainable repatriation.  Implementing these issues will substantiate the goodwill and commitment of Bangladesh and the international community to protect the rights of the Rohingyas by gaining their trust in the Rohingyas and ensuring voluntary and sustainable repatriation. To create an enabling environment for the sustainable and dignified repatriation of the Rohingyas, an implementable road map needs to be formulated, that will contribute to the confidence of the Rohingyas to return to Myanmar voluntarily. The Rohingyas want to return to Myanmar only after being granted their security and recognition of citizenship. The Rohingyas want freedom of movement and job security after returning to Rakhine. 

If the recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission are implemented, the socio-economic development of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, the creation of jobs and the reduction of poverty, are bound to change the attitude of the local Rakhine’s towards the Rohingyas. Taking appropriate and well-planned steps to implement these recommendations will bring transparency to Myanmar’s efforts to repatriate Rohingyas and expedite the repatriation process. Bangladesh will continue to support any effective steps taken for the dignified and safe repatriation of Rohingyas.

Brig Gen (Retd) Hasan Md Shamsuddin, ndc, afwc, psc, MPhil, Researcher on Myanmar, Rohingya and ASEAN affairs.

Brig Gen (Retd) Hasan Md Shamsuddin

Brig Gen (Retd) Hasan Md Shamsuddin, NDC, AFWC, PSC, MPhil, Researcher on Myanmar, Rohingya and ASEAN affairs.

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