Bangladesh gives names to Burma to begin Rohingya repatriation

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A Bangladeshi minister has given a list of 8,032 Rohingya refugees to his Burmese counterpart to begin repatriations of the Muslim minority under a November agreement between the two countries.

Bangladesh’s home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said the list contained the members of 1,673 Rohingya families. He did not explain how the names had been chosen.

About 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled army-led violence in Buddhist-majority Burma since last August and are living in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

The two countries agreed to begin the repatriations last month, but they were delayed by concerns among aid workers and Rohingya that they would be forced to return to unsafe conditions in Burma.

Bangladeshi minister Asaduzzaman Khan and Burma's Kyaw Swe in Dhaka (AP)
Bangladeshi minister Asaduzzaman Khan, right, and Burma’s Kyaw Swe in Dhaka (AP)

Mr Khan said he presented the list to Lieutenant General Kyaw Swe, who is visiting Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, to discuss the repatriations and other border issues.

“The Myanmar (Burma) side cordially accepted the list, and they sought our help to make it happen,” Mr Khan told reporters.

He said officials in Burma would choose 6,500 people next Tuesday to be sent back in an initial phase. He would not say when the repatriation would start.

“They said they will take them all in three phases,” he said. “No specific timeframe has been decided yet when they will start returning.”

Rohingya Muslim reach for food aid near Balukhali refugee camp (AP/Dar Yasin)
Rohingya Muslim reach for food aid near Balukhali refugee camp (AP/Dar Yasin)

Impoverished Bangladesh has been overwhelmed by the refugees and is eager for them to return to Burma.

On Thursday, Kyaw Swe told Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid that Burma is ready to take back displaced people, presidential spokesman Joynal Abedin said on Friday.

Mr Abedin also quoted Kyaw Swe as saying that Burma will implement the recommendations of a commission led by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan to improve conditions in Rakhine state, where the refugees previously lived.

The violence erupted after an underground insurgent group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, attacked security outposts in Rakhine in late August.

The military and Buddhist mobs launched retaliatory attacks on Rohingya that were termed “clearance operations”.

Burmese security forces have been accused of atrocities against the Rohingya, including killing, rape and arson. The UN have described the army crackdown as “ethnic cleansing”.

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