Monday, June 1, 2009

Bangladesh, Burma Work to Resolve Rohingya Repatriation

The Irrawaddy News

The influx of Rohingya refuges into Bangladesh will not stop until there is a change in Arakan State and Burmese officials agree to repatriation, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said at a press conference on Friday.

“If there is no qualitative change in the place they come from, the influx will be continuing no matter how serious we are in trying to resolve the crisis,” Dipu Moni said.

She made the comment in response to media reports that more Rohingya refugees were entering Bangladesh through the Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban districts.

The foreign minister said nearly 30,000 Rohingya currently reside in two makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar District and many more live outside the designated camps.

The foreign minister recalled that Burma claimed that the Rohingya were Bangladeshi at the Bali Conference on human trafficking in April.

“But I presented the historical facts and necessary evidence on the Rohingya, their origin in Burma, at the conference to convince the international community,” she said.

During her visit to Burma on May 16-17, Dipu Moni said the Burmese government agreed to take Rohingya refugees back if a proper list was provided. “Progress has been made in this regard,” she said.

“We will provide the list to Rangoon in consultation with the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHRC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM),” she said.

The UNHRC earlier called the Rohingyas issues a “protracted” humanitarian problem that began 30 years ago.

Khine Mrat Kyaw, an editor at the Bangladesh-based Narinjara news agency, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that he didn’t believe the Rohingya issue would be easily solved.

Under a subsequent tripartite agreement between Dhaka, the UN refugee agency and Rangoon, Burma had agreed to take back Rohingya following Bangladesh refusal to shelter them for an indefinite period, calling it an "economic burden."

Khine Mrat Kyaw said, “When I asked them [Rohingya], they don’t want to go back to Burma. If the Bangladesh government sent them by force, they would protest and demonstrate. Bangladesh needs to negotiate with the UNHRC and Burma.”

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Touhid Hossain told the press briefing: "Unless the situation in Burma improves to restore the confidence of the Rohingya, the problem is unlikely to be resolved despite the tripartite agreement or Rangoon's statements."

Rohingya have alleged widespread, systemic human rights abuses by Burmese authorities, saying the government deprives Rohingya citizens of free movement, education and rightful employment.

Rohingya have migrated to Bangladesh since the late 1970s, and, more recently, Malaysia and Indonesia.

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