Bangladesh Agrees With Burma to Complete Rohingya Return in Two Years

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The exodus of Rohingya from Myanmar into neighboring Bangladesh started after fighting broke out between Rohingya militants and security forces last summer.

The Rohingya crisis erupted after insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), better know locally as the Harakah al-Yaqin (faith movement in Arabic), attacked security posts on August 25 in the western state of Rakhine, triggering a fierce military response that the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing.

The conflict in Myanmar's Rakhine state between the Rohingya, the Muslim minority, and the Buddhist majority, dates back to the previous century.

A Rohingya Muslim refugee waits with others for food aid at Thankhali refugee camp in Bangladesh's Ukhia district on January 12, 2018.

It said unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene conditions can lead to cholera outbreaks and Hepatitis E, a deadly disease for pregnant women and their babies, while standing water pools can attract malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Babies were born out in the open on beaches. Without an identity card, the plight of the Rohignya is only exacerbated.

Besides, the two countries have also finalised the form for verification of all the Rohingyas.

The two countries formed the JWG on December 19, following a repatriation deal signed on November 23 a year ago amid global outcry over the military crackdown that the United Nations and the USA described as ethnic cleansing.

State-run media in Myanmar reported Monday that a camp is being prepared that can accommodate about 30,000 people in 625 buildings, and that at least 100 buildings will be completed by the end of the month.

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The meeting in Burma's capital Naypyitaw was the first for a joint working group set up to hammer out the details of the November repatriation agreement.

A UNHCR spokesman said on Tuesday the Rohingya should return voluntarily only when they feel it is safe to do so.

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

A statement by the Bangladeshi government said the agreement aims to return Rohingya "within two years from the commencement of repatriation".

The committee also called the atrocities against Rohingya a "huge human tragedy". "Some 1,500 Rohingyas will be sent back in a week", said Rahman. Apart from the fact that at this rate repatriation can take around a decade to complete, Myanmar's army - which has control over Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Border Affairs - still seems unwilling to clear a path to citizenship and political inclusion for the people of Rohingya.

"The obfuscation and denials of the Myanmar authorities give no reason to hope that the rights of returning Rohingya would be protected, or that the reasons for their original flight no longer exist".

These questions raise serious questions about the viability of the entire process.

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