A Burmese delegation arrived in Bangladesh on Tuesday to meet with Rohingya refugees, as part of a long-stalled repatriation project now backed by China, officials said.
Burmese representatives arrived in Teknaf, a Bangladeshi river port across their shared border, to meet the Rohingya and their families.
“Today they will discuss repatriation with the Rohingya and verify their identity,” Shamsud Douza, Bangladesh’s deputy commissioner for refugees, told AFP.
“The delegates will leave for Burma today, but will return tomorrow,” added Mr. Twelve.
According to Bangladeshi authorities, Myanmar plans to take back some 3,000 refugees in December as part of a pilot repatriation project negotiated during a tripartite meeting between the two countries and China in April.
“They (the Burmese) are ready to welcome them. But the Rohingya are not ready to leave. That’s the challenge,” a Bangladeshi government official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Leaders of the Rohingya community have long said they would only return to Burma if the country granted them citizenship and allowed them to resettle on their lands.
“We are interested in returning to our country if Burma takes us back to our place of origin, restores our dignity and fully fulfills our rights,” Khin Maung, a prominent Rohingya leader, told AFP. “But if we are not granted our rights, questions arise.”
Bangladesh is home to around one million members of this stateless Muslim minority, some 750,000 of whom fled Burma in 2017 to escape a fierce crackdown by the Burmese military, which is under investigation for “acts of genocide” before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). ).
The fate of the Rohingya is more uncertain than ever, with a repatriation deal not forthcoming, an anarchic situation in refugee camps and a reduction in international humanitarian aid.
This desperate situation has pushed thousands of Rohingya to undertake dangerous sea journeys to Southeast Asian countries to leave the camps.
Despite centuries-old roots in Burma, the Rohingya are widely seen there as intruders from Bangladesh. They have become stateless since Myanmar stopped recognizing their citizenship in 2015.
A repatriation plan agreed in 2017 has failed to make significant progress, and the Rohingya are demanding guarantees of safety and rights. The Covid pandemic and the 2021 military coup in Burma halted any progress.
Bangladesh has repeatedly said any repatriation would be voluntary, but several affected Rohingya told AFP they had been threatened to force them to take part.