Bangladesh, Myanmar to implement Rohingya repatriation deal within 2 years

Dhaka (UNA-OIC) - Bangladesh has agreed to complete the process of returning Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar within two years after repatriation begins, the South Asian nation said on Tuesday.

The agreement, finalized in Myanmar's capital this week, says that the process would be "completed preferably within 2 years from the commencement of repatriation," a statement from the Bangladesh foreign ministry said.

The ministry did not say, however, when the process would begin. But it added the return effort envisages "considering the family as a unit," with Myanmar to provide temporary shelter for those returning before rebuilding houses for them.

According to the deal, Bangladesh will "establish five transit camps from which returnees would be received initially in two reception centers on Myanmar side."

Myanmar will prioritize resettling people living in close proximity to the "zero line."

Myanmar agreed to repatriate Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh in November, but the U.N. and rights group fear for their safety in the country, where anti-Muslim sentiment is surging, according to media reports.

More than 650,000 Rohingyas were forced to flee the Buddhist country since August 25 due to "clearance operations" by the army.

The U.N. described the military's actions as "ethnic cleansing," and rights groups have accused security forces of atrocities, including mass rape, arson, and killings. The U.N. rights chief said Myanmar army could commit acts of genocide.

Described by the U.N. as the most persecuted minority, Rohingyas have been the target of communal violence and vicious anti-Muslim sentiment in mainly Buddhist Myanmar for years. They have also been systematically oppressed by the government, which stripped the minority of citizenship and severely restricts their movement, as well as their access to essential services. Tensions erupted into bouts of bloodshed in 2012 that pushed more than 100,000 Rohingya into grim displacement camps. Despite the squalid conditions in the overcrowded camps in Bangladesh, many of the refugees say they are reluctant to return to Myanmar unless they are granted full citizenship.

Source: International Islamic News Agency