DHAKA, May 30: The regional representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), James Lynch, on Sunday said they are working on the repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh. “We have convened a meeting in Bangkok to chalk out a plan for repatriating the Rohingyas from Bangladesh. A conference will also be held in Bali in this regard. Bangladesh can play a crucial role at these meets,” he said, during a meeting with food and disaster management minister Dr MA Razzaque, at the secretariat.
The UNHCR office in Dhaka has confirmed that the meeting in Bangkok is going to be held on May 29. Bangladesh’s ambassador to Thailand will lead the country’s delegation at the meet.
There are 25,000 registered Rohingyas in Bangladesh, the UNHCR regional chief told reporters, without giving further details on the stalled repatriation of the refugees, who started fleeing to south eastern Bangladesh, from western Arakan state of Myanmar since late 1991, to escape religious and ethnic persecution by the Yangon military junta.
According to sources, there are an estimated 3-5 lakh Rohingyas in Bangladesh.
Lynch said it was not possible to repatriate Rohingyas from Bangladesh, during the past seven years due to social embargoes imposed by Myanmar. The Rohingyas are deprived of their fundamental rights in their own country and the Myanmar government never agreed to discuss this before, he added.
“The situation has improved now and we are having discussions with the Myanmar government about this,” the UNHCR representative said. He added that there was scope to discuss the issue, at the meeting in Thailand.
“There would be problems on how to repatriate the non-registered Rohingyas. A large part of the registered Rohingyas were born in refugee camps of Bangladesh. The matter needs to be finalised,” he said.
Dr MA Razzaque said they have been sheltering the Rohingyas for the past 20 years. “It is a burden on a country, with ‘limited’ resources, like Bangladesh.
The Rohingya refugee problem is not only for Bangladesh. It has turned into an international problem now. The UNHCR has to work hard attaching importance in this regard,” the minister said.
The food minister added that it was necessary to work with the receiving country of any repatriation on the refugee issue.
“There are signs of a positive change, now in Myanmar. There is also uncertainty over the question of repatriation of Rohingya refugees. We hope, the Myanmar government will take positive steps in this regard,” he said.
The minister thanked the UNHCR regional representative for taking steps to repatriate Rohingya refugees.
Disaster management and relief secretary Dr M Aslam said they are trying to arrange an international meeting at Cox’s Bazar, to discuss the entire situation in the western Rakhine state of Myanmar