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Rohingya repatriation to begin 'as soon as possible': Myanmar minister

Press Trust of India  |  Dhaka 

Repatriation of Rohingya refugees would begin "as soon as possible", a said today, a day after he visited the makeshift camps of the forcibly displaced Muslim refugees in

According to the UN estimates, more than 600,000 minority Rohingya Muslims have fled to to escape violence in Myanmar's since August 25 last year when the launched a military crackdown.

does not recognise Rohingya as an ethnic group and insists that they are Bangladeshi migrants living illegally in the country.

Myanmar's for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Win arrived in yesterday and visited the makeshift Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar, the first by a

He also talked to some 50 representatives of the displaced people of his country.

"We have overcome many difficulties. I am very sure that we can start repatriation of Rogingyas as soon as possible," Aye told reporters after a meeting with Bangladesh's A H Mahmod Ali in

and concerned officials of both the countries also joined the meeting, which Aye called "very fruitful".

"We work together with to start repatriation process as soon as possible," Aye said.

He said that he had already discussed the repatriation issue with UN refugee agency the UNHCR and the UNDP during his visit to the makeshift Rohingya abode in Cox's Bazar.

The UNHCR called the Myanmar minister's visit to Bangladesh a confidence-building measure, but said conditions in Myanmar were not ready for their return.

Aye said the returnees would get citizenship according to the law of Myanmar.

"First, they (Rohingyas) have to get National Verification Card to apply for citizenship and the (Myanmar) authority will give them citizenship status after scrutiny," he said.

The said an "agreed form" to be filled up by the Rohingyas appeared to be a possible difficulty in the repatriation process, adding that if they filled it up "the registration process would be easier".

Ali, on the other hand, said that the meeting discussed the impediments for the safe, dignified and sustainable return of the Rohingys to their homeland in Myanmar.

Myanmar responded positively to a Bangladesh request for rebuilding the burnt down Rphingya villages in Rakhine state, saying they already undertook the rebuilding process with the help of many countries, he said.

The Myanmar delegation, Ali said, also told Bangladesh side that they took many new ideas for improving livelihood of the returnees.

"We, both the sides, have agreed that the returnees should not stay for more than a few days in transit camps," the Bangladeshi said.

The UN counted some 700,000 Rohingyas to have taken refuge in Bangladesh since launched a crackdown on their ethnic minority community on August 25 last year.

The UN described the atrocities as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing while the rights groups called it genocide.

Aye, who heads rehabilitation efforts in the troubled Rakhine state, also told the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh that getting the repatriation process moving was a top priority as the refugees were living in cramped camps.

Bangladesh continued to seek sustained global pressure on Myanmar to return the Rohingyas soon, especially with the oncoming monsoons expected to cause devastation at the camps.

The UNHCR, in a statement, questioned Myanmar's readiness for their return, saying "Conditions in Myanmar are not yet conducive for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of refugees while it simultaneously said the responsibility remains with the to create such conditions.

The UNHCR called on Myanmar to provide the agency unhindered access in Rakhine to assess the situation and monitor the return and reintegration of refugees if and when they voluntarily return.

Aye told the refugee representatives to set aside the past and to prepare to go back, promising new villages would be built with hospitals and schools.

But some refugees have said they are worried about going back, fearing persecution while they escaped the military crackdown amid mass murder, rape and arson incidents by Myanmar troops and Buddhist vigilantes.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar, however, rejects the charge, saying its security forces launched a counter-insurgency operation on August 25 in response to Rohingya militant attacks.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, April 12 2018. 23:15 IST