Bangladesh, Myanmar to complete return of Rohingyas in two years

Rohingya repatriation 'physical arrangement' deal struck

Myanmar and neighboring Bangladesh have completed an agreement to repatriate scores of Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar to escape a brutal military crackdown.

The agreement was reached during the meeting of a Joint Working Group (JWG) between the two countries in Naypyidaw, Myanmar.

Bill Richardson said Tuesday that he hoped two Reuters journalists will be freed in conjunction with his visit to Myanmar next week as a member of an worldwide advisory panel seeking to resolve the crisis in the country.

The meeting agreed that the verification and the return of the Rohingya will be based on the family as a unit, and finalised the "verification form".

The agreement follows a pact between the countries in November paving the way for repatriations from January 23, a deadline that is likely to slip given the logistical challenges of the cross-border operation.

Also, they have been long persecuted by the Buddhists and the security forces.

Life for the Rohingya in Bangladesh is less violent but equally as problematic, with a lack of any formal refugee status and their rights to work being heavily restricted.

In less than half a year, more than 655,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar into neighboring Bangladesh, telling horrifying stories of systematic rape, murder and arson by Myanmar's military.

An official timeframe for the repatriation of minority Rohingya Muslims who've fled violence is now in place.

The statement said that Myanmar had reiterated its commitment to stop outflow of Myanmar residents to Bangladesh.

On Tuesday, the UN Refugee Agency called for the Rohingya refugees to be informed about the conditions in Rakhine before they are allowed to return voluntarily and in safety.

A Burmese agency set up to oversee repatriation said in a statement last Thursday that two temporary "repatriation and assessment camps" and one other site to accommodate returnees had been set up.

However, the United Nations refugee agency said Tuesday that it has not been invited to take part or given full access to the areas where refugees are to return. "Some 1,500 Rohingyas will be sent back in a week", said Rahman.

"UNCHR and our partners need urgent, unhindered access in Rakhine state in order to assess the situation and provide support to those in need", UNCHR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said in Geneva.

However, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was said to have objected to the idea of "pushing back" the Rohingyas and insisted that they should be arrested instead. However, even if some refugees do choose to repatriate, there is little proof that appropriate measures will be placed to secure their basic human rights, citizenship or protection from further persecution.

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