Bangladesh-Myanmar talks on Rohingya repatriation resume after a year

Talks between Bangladesh and Myanmar on the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees to Rakhine have resumed a year after the last meeting was held.

The two sides met for the last time in China-mediated talks in January last year and decided to hold working group-level meetings in the first week of the next month.

But Myanmar’s military junta captured power by deposing democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in the beginning of February.

On Thursday, the first ever meeting of the newly formed technical level Ad-Hoc Task Force for Verification of the Displaced Persons from Rakhine was held virtually between Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Shah Rizwan Hayat and Ye Tun Oo, deputy director general of the ministry of immigration and population of Myanmar led the two sides.

In this technical level discussion, both sides expressed “readiness to continue working closely” to address the reasons causing delay in the verification of the past residency of the displaced people in Rakhine, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Shah Rizwan highlighted Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s humanitarian gesture to give temporary shelters to the Rohingya despite numerous constraints and challenges facing Bangladesh.

He expressed dismay over the slow pace of verification of past residency by Myanmar and offered all cooperation under the three bilateral instruments signed so far to “expeditiously” complete the verification process.

He added that solving difficulties and gaps in pending verification will pave the way for the early commencement of the sustainable repatriation of the displaced people of Rakhine.

A conducive environment in Rakhine and confidence-building among the refugees are required for a sustainable repatriation, he pointed out.

Detailing the technical difficulties and information gaps, the Myanmar delegation assured their cooperation to complete pending verification, according to the statement.

In the face of persecution and brutal military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state in 2017, about 750,00 Rohingya poured across the border.

Bangladesh is currently harbouring more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees. Four years after the influx, the repatriation process is yet to get off the ground.

The South Asian country has made repeated calls for an active role of the international community over the repatriation of the Rohingya but to little avail so far.