Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said there has been virtually no progress on repatriation of the Rohingyas although Bangladesh has been making various efforts, including signing of a deal with Myanmar on their return.
"We've been making various efforts, we have signed a deal, their [Myanmar's ministers visited Bangladesh and saw the sufferings of displaced Rohingyas, but there has been virtually no progress," she said.
The prime minister made the comment as Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty met her at the Gono Bahaban. PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters after the meeting, reports UNB.
To identify them quickly and effectively, Hasina said, Bangladesh has done the biometric registration of over one million Rohingyas, including some 700,000, who fled atrocities in Myanmar's Rakhine State since August 25 last year.
While Bangladesh is bearing the brunt of immense socio-economic and environmental consequences in Cox's Bazar, international relations experts fear uncertainty over the repatriation because the conditions for Rohingya returns in Rakhine are still elusive.
Myanmar authorities have reportedly been bulldozing the burnt Rohingya villages and the vegetation while building security installations and rehabilitating ethnic Rakhines in the places once owned by the Rohingyas.
Though the Rohingya want guarantee of citizenship and UN-controlled safe zone in Rakhine for them, Myanmar said they built temporary camps for housing the returnee Rohingyas before they are settled in their own homes.
Under such circumstances, international community too is sceptical of a safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of the Rohingyas, who have been denied citizenship and other basic rights in Myanmar since 1982.
The UN said the atrocities against the minority group have hallmarks of genocide.
Bangladesh saw phases of Rohingya influx since 1980s, with the latest being the biggest.
Yet, officials said, Dhaka signed the repatriation deal, putting importance on the bilateral relations between the two neighbours. As per the agreement, the repatriation was supposed to begin on January 23.
However, just a week before that, Myanmar tagged the condition that they want family-wise list of the Rohingyas in their prescribed forms.
Agreeing to that, Bangladesh authorities prepared the family-wise list and handed over a list of over 8,000 to Myanmar on February 16.
However, in mid-March Myanmar authorities said only some 600 of those were eligible for return, while blaming Bangladesh, saying that the verification forms received from Dhaka were not the ones agreed by both sides and that the forms were not properly filled in.
Experts had branded the deal as Myanmar's trick to avoid international pressure.
Now that Myanmar is putting blame on Bangladesh for the delay in repatriation instead of creating conditions for the return, they suggest that Bangladesh engage the UN and work for international pressure on Myanmar.
Against this backdrop, Prime Minister's Foreign Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi called for re-imposition of sanctions against Myanmar.
“Without pressure, nothing will happen. Myanmar won't be secure for the Rohingyas. If Myanmar is not secure, Rohingyas will not go back,” Rizvi said at an international conference in Dhaka on April 3.
“If Myanmar can get away, there will be no security of minorities anywhere in the world. So, we really need to wake up,” he said, calling for “extraordinary international support” for the Rohingyas.
Also yesterday, Hasina said, "Bangladesh government is very much careful about the safety and security of the Myanmar Rohingya refugees."
She said her government is arranging temporary shelters for the Rohingyas in Bhashan Char and expected the Amnesty International to continue their work for the rights of the Rohingya.
Amnesty's Salil Shetty told the PM he has visited Cox's Bazar Rohingya camps and talked to Rohingyas and saw the satellite pictures and video evidence of the atrocities carried out on the Rohingya people in Myanmar.
"It's a crime against Rohingyas," he said, and added that Rohingya women are still traumatised.
"There should be a public campaign and pressure in favour of Rohingya people," he said.
Shetty stressed that Rohingya refugees must return to their homeland. "But their safety and security must be ensured.”
UNHCR NEGOTIATES DEALS
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is negotiating separate agreements with Bangladesh and Myanmar to ensure that Rohingya repatriation complies with the necessary international standards, UNHCR Asia-Pacific Head Indrika Ratwatte said in Geneva on Wednesday, reports Efe.com, a Spanish news service.
He said it would have been ideal to sign a tripartite agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar and the UN refugee agency, but since that did not happen, the UNHCR was trying to remedy the situation by signing two separate agreements.
He said negotiations for the agreement with Bangladesh had almost concluded and it could be signed in the near future.
The agreement with Myanmar refers not only to the preconditions required for repatriation but also to conditions of access for UN agencies to the northern part of Myanmar's Rakhine state.
"We have clearly said access is imperative for the UN and us, in collective, the UN family, to have access to northern Rakhine to see the situation on the ground", the UN official added.
UNDP is also negotiating the agreement with Myanmar, Ratwatte said.