On Monday, Bangladesh and Myanmar finally signed off an accord about the return of Rohingya refugees receding in Bangladesh after fleeing from the humanitarian crisis induced on the minority Burmese nationals since August 25. Titled as ‘Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State’, this deal is about the return of Rohingya refugees.
Defining the terms of return of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled and sheltered in Bangladesh since August after anti-humanitarian military ops implied in the Rakhine state. After considerable pressure from international bodies, gulf countries and western leader countries who accused the Myanmar military of carrying out mass ethnic cleansing, rape and other atrocities during counter-insurgency operations in Rakhine state. Since August, over 6,20,000 Rohingyas have fled to neighbouring country – Bangladesh seeking sanctuary to survive. This has led to a major humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh and the government has shown their concerns regarding providing refugee shelter to such a mass.
The Prime Minister of Bangladesh Hasina Sheikh referred to the burden faced by her country because of the huge influx of Rohingya refugees in the Cox’s Bazaar district and other border regions and urged Myanmar government to start repatriation soon. After immense pressure from international bodies like the United Nations and even the United States, Myanmar is finally seeking to ease out the international pressure by inking down an initial deal about return of the refugees. The ‘Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State’ basically does not set a deadline for the return of the refugees but reports suggested the Rohingyas could start returning to their homes within two months.
The memorandum of understanding which is based on the 1992-1993 repatriation agreement between the two countries, will make sure that overstretched refugee camps that have mushroomed in Bangladesh don’t become permanent. The previous edition of repatriation agreement was inked down by both countries during a previous spasm of violence in Myanmar, of the similar kind. The memorandum was inked down by Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Bangladesh foreign minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali in Naypyitaw.
Soon after the MoU was signed, Myint Kyaing, a permanent secretary in Myanmar’s ministry of labour, immigration and population said that, “We are ready to take them back as soon as possible after Bangladesh sends the forms back to us”. The repatriation deal mentions the start date of letting Rohingyas back in Myanmar, but there is no mentioning of the deadline and what will happen once they get back? A safeguard must be provided to the Rohingyas against any further violence, a way to grant them citizenship and clear legal status and a decision of whether or not will they be allowed to return to their homes and farms. Only then can this scorn humanitarian crisis end.