Repatriation of Rohingyas: More talks, no timeframe yet

12:00 AM, August 11, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:37 AM, August 11, 2018

                                                                                                              Repatriation of Rohingyas: More talks, no timeframe yet

FM holds meeting with three senior ministers of Myanmar

Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar wait to be let through by Bangladeshi border guards after crossing the border in Palang Khali, Bangladesh. File Photo: Reuters

Diplomatic Correspondent

Myanmar yesterday agreed to speed up the process of repatriating the forcibly displaced Rohingyas who fled to Bangladesh from Rakhine to escape persecution.  The development came at a ministerial meeting between Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali and his Myanmar counterpart Kyaw Tint Swe in Naypyidaw.

Though the two sides reiterated their commitment to closer consultation in resolving the crisis, they could neither reach any concrete decision nor set any date for starting the repatriation.They reviewed the preparations for the return of the refugees, and also agreed to establish a hotline between the foreign ministers of the two countries to facilitate further discussions.

A diplomatic source in Dhaka told this newspaper that the issues raised at yesterday’s meeting had already been discussed in the past, and there was no indication that Myanmar would expedite the repatriation process.

Mahmood, who is leading a 15-member delegation on a four-day visit, is scheduled to tour Northern Rakhine State this morning to see the preparations for repatriating more than 720,000 Rohingyas who have taken shelter in Bangladesh since August 25 last year to escape a brutal military crackdown.

Myanmar Minister for Labour, Immigration and Population Thein Swe and Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Win Myat Aye were also present at yesterday’s meeting. Later, Myanmar State Counsellor’s Office posted a press release on its official Facebook page, outlining the issues discussed at the meeting. However, Bangladesh foreign ministry didn’t issue any statement as of 11:00pm yesterday.

The two countries discussed the implementation of the bilateral agreement — the Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State — signed on November 23 last year. They agreed on eight points, including one on intensifying cooperation on counter-terrorism and the fight against drug trafficking through exchange of intelligence, collaboration between border guard officials and coordinated border patrols.

The two sides reached a consensus on quick repatriation of the Rohingyas staying along the international border between Myanmar and Bangladesh, in particular the area between the international border and the fence put up on Myanmar territory.

As per last year’s agreement, Myanmar has built two reception centres and a transit camp, according to the press release issued by Myanmar State Counsellor’s Office. Bangladesh has confirmed progress on the five transit camps; one is complete, another is under construction, and three are yet to be built, it mentioned.

Both parties agreed that the repatriation of the Rohingyas will be done in a voluntary, safe and dignified manner, and verification forms are to be distributed among them. Signatures, fingerprints, and photo IDs are to be completed when the refugees fill out the forms by themselves. This needs to be done to indicate voluntary return and assist with Myanmar’s verification process, it added.

Related Topics: Rohingya repatriation, Rohingya crisis, Myanmar atrocities, Myanmar Rohingya crisis

 Source: https://www.thedailystar.net/news/frontpage/early-repatriation-rohingyas-more-promises-still-no-deadline-1619116

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UNHCR urges Asia-Pacific leaders to show ‘solidarity’ with Rohingyas

01:46 PM, August 10, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:56 PM, August 10, 2018

UNHCR urges Asia-Pacific leaders to show ‘solidarity’ with Rohingyas

PHOTO: REUTERS

UNB, Dhaka

 Head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi has urged the government representatives and the business leaders from the Asia-Pacific region to offer more support and protection for over 700,000 Rohingyas who have fled violence and discrimination in Myanmar’s Rakhine State over the past year.

“I urge you to consider what support your Governments could pledge in solidarity with Bangladesh until solutions are found for refugees,” he said addressing ministers of 26 countries in Bali, Indonesia, at the Seventh Ministerial Conference of the Bali Process recently.

He said they need also to work towards comprehensive solutions for the people of Rakhine State, so that they are not forced to move in the first place. The Bali Process is a forum made up of 48 Governments and four international organizations – including UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) – which was set up to enable dialogue and discussion on issues relating to people-smuggling, human trafficking and related cross-border crime.

In March 2016, the Bali Declaration was adopted, highlighting the need for a comprehensive collective approach to resolve statelessness, invest in inclusive development, and expand safe pathways so that refugees and migrants would have legal alternatives to putting their lives at risk while on the move.

Since late August 2017, widespread and systematic violence against Myanmar’s mainly Muslim minority Rohingya has forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes in Rakhine state for Bangladesh, according to UN News Centre.

Prior to that, well over 200,000 Rohingya refugees were sheltering in vast, makeshift camps in Bangladesh as a result of earlier displacements. Grandi urged governments to move “from consultation to action on the commitments they made” in the Declaration, asking them to consider how they could share Bangladesh’s refugee burden.

“Could your government support, for example, construction of hospitals in Bangladesh,” he asked

He said that will treat refugees but also improve the health care of local people. “Can we conceive of development, trade, and migration-related measures to help the people and Government of Bangladesh shoulder the responsibility of hosting some 900,000 refugees, such as expanding guest worker quotas for Bangladeshis that would increase remittances, or reducing tariffs on garment exports from Bangladesh?”

The UNHCR chief also stressed that the “real solution” lies in Myanmar itself, and he appealed for regional support to address the root causes of displacement in Rakhine: for example, investing in infrastructure that connects communities instead of dividing them, and providing expertise on resolving statelessness and intercommunal conflict.

The High Commissioner also addressed business leaders of major corporations who attended the Conference as part of the Bali Process Government and Business Forum, a public-private partnership to expand legal labour migration and combat human trafficking.

“People forced to move can fall prey to modern slavery, adding the insult of exploitation to the injury of exile,” he said, adding that “there are now, more than ever, opportunities for refugees in this region to contribute to their host communities.”

Related Topics: UNHCR, Rohingya crisis

 Source: https://www.thedailystar.net/news/rohingya-crisis/unhcr-urges-asia-pacific-leaders-show-solidarity-rohingyas-1618765

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Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali visits Maungdaw Township in Myanmar’s Rakhine state

05:51 PM, August 11, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 06:04 PM, August 11, 2018

Repatriation of Rohingyas

Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali visits Maungdaw Township in Myanmar’s Rakhine state

Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali and his Myanmar counterpart Kyaw Tint Swe shake hands during a ministerial meeting between the two countries in Naypyidaw of Myanmar on Friday, August 10, 2018. Photo: Courtesy

Star Online Report

 A Bangladesh delegation led by Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali today visited the villages around Maungdaw Township of Rakhine state to see the progress of repatriation process for Rohingyas including housing and other facilities for the returnees.

More than 720,000 Rohingyas from Rakhine state have taken shelter in Bangladesh since August 25 last year to escape a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar.

Ali is leading a 15-member high power delegation for a four-day visit to Myanmar for talk with Myanmar government leaders as well as to see for themselves whether  conducive environment has been created in Rakhine for the safe return of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas.

Read More

Rohingya Return: Bangladesh FM to visit Rakhine to see progress 

Repatriation of Rohingyas: More talks, no timeframe yet

Diplomatic sources in Yangoon told The Daily Star that apart from the foreign minister, Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque and few other members of the delegation were allowed to visit the Maungdaw Township.

Even the Bangladesh Ambassador in Myanmar Manjurul Karim Khan Chowdhury was not able to accompany the foreign minister because of accommodation constrains in helicopter.

Myanmar’s Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Minister Win Myat Aye was also with the Bangladesh delegation. The ambassador told The Daily Star that the delegation members left Sittwe for Maungdaw at noon and returned to Sittwe at 5:00pm (BST).

“The minister just arrived in Sittwe and we are now on way to Yangoon from where we will issue a press statement,” the Bangladesh envoy said. Yesterday, Myanmar agreed to speed up the process of repatriating the forcibly displaced Rohingyas who fled to Bangladesh from Rakhine to escape persecution.

The development came at a ministerial meeting between Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali and his Myanmar counterpart Kyaw Tint Swe in Naypyidaw. Though the two sides reiterated their commitment to closer consultation in resolving the crisis, they could neither reach any concrete decision nor set any date for starting the repatriation.

They reviewed the preparations for the return of the refugees, and also agreed to establish a hotline between the foreign ministers of the two countries to facilitate further discussions. A diplomatic source in Dhaka told this newspaper that the issues raised at yesterday’s meeting had already been discussed in the past, and there was no indication that Myanmar would expedite the repatriation process.

Later, Myanmar State Counsellor’s Office posted a press release on its official Facebook page, outlining the issues discussed at the meeting. However, Bangladesh foreign ministry didn’t issue any statement as of 11:00pm yesterday.

The two countries discussed the implementation of the bilateral agreement — the Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State — signed on November 23 last year. They agreed on eight points, including one on intensifying cooperation on counter-terrorism and the fight against drug trafficking through exchange of intelligence, collaboration between border guard officials and coordinated border patrols.

The two sides reached a consensus on quick repatriation of the Rohingyas staying along the international border between Myanmar and Bangladesh, in particular the area between the international border and the fence put up on Myanmar territory.

As per last year’s agreement, Myanmar has built two reception centres and a transit camp, according to the press release issued by Myanmar State Counsellor’s Office. Bangladesh has confirmed progress on the five transit camps; one is complete, another is under construction, and three are yet to be built, it mentioned.

Both parties agreed that the repatriation of the Rohingyas will be done in a voluntary, safe and dignified manner, and verification forms are to be distributed among them. Signatures, fingerprints, and photo IDs are to be completed when the refugees fill out the forms by themselves. This needs to be done to indicate voluntary return and assist with Myanmar’s verification process, it added.

Related Topics: Rohingya repatriation deal, Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, Bangladesh delegation visits Myanmar’s Maungdaw

Source: https://www.thedailystar.net/news/rohingya-crisis/rohingya-return-fm-visits-maungdaw-township-myanmars-rakhine-1619218

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MSF urges humanitarian access to Rakhine

08:14 PM, August 10, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 08:21 PM, August 10, 2018

 MSF urges humanitarian access to Rakhine

Rohingya refugees walk towards the Balukhali refugee camp in Bangladesh after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. AFP file photo

Star Online Report

 Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has called out to Myanmar government to allow humanitarian access to northern Rakhine, where attention is needed. Independent humanitarian agencies remain largely blocked from accessing vulnerable communities in northern Rakhine, they said in a statement released from Amsterdam today.

“The lack of sustained independent assessments in northern Rakhine means that no one has a comprehensive picture of the situation on the ground and the medical and humanitarian needs,” says Benoit De Gryse, MSF’s Operations Manager for Myanmar.

“MSF once again requests the government grant immediate and unfettered access to northern Rakhine to all independent and impartial humanitarian actors, to ensure that the healthcare needs of the population can be evaluated and addressed.” Gryse said.

The Myanmar government has claimed that healthcare needs are being met, but the severe limitations on humanitarian access to northern Rakhine underline the lack of independent information on conditions, the statement said.

On August 11, 2017, two weeks prior to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and the Myanmar Army’s so-called “clearance operations” that followed, MSF lost government authorisation to carry out medical activities in northern Rakhine. One year on, MSF remains unable to operate in the area.

MSF has provided healthcare to all communities in northern Rakhine since 1994. MSF continues to provide primary healthcare and emergency referrals for patients in Sittwe district, central Rakhine. Elsewhere in Myanmar, MSF continues to run medical projects in Shan, Kachin and Yangon, as well as in the Naga Self-Administered Zone and Tanintharyi region.

Related Topics: Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Myanmar Rohingya crisis, Myanmar Government

Source: https://www.thedailystar.net/news/rohingya-crisis/msf-urges-humanitarian-access-rakhine-1618831

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UN staff granted access to Rakhine

08:50 PM, August 10, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 08:56 PM, August 10, 2018

UN staff granted access to Rakhine

Satellite imagery recorded after the destruction of Nwar Yon Taung village in Northern Rakhine. File photo taken from DigitalGlobe

Star Online Report

 Myanmar government has cleared the travel of UN agencies’ staff in northern Rakhine, in order to conduct preliminary assessments in some 23 villages – 12 in Buthidaung and 11 in Maundaw. “This information has been transmitted to the relevant departments to make necessary arrangements for the field assessments,’’ Myanmar’s foreign ministry said in a statement, reported Myanmar Times yesterday.

An official of the UNHCR said they will continue to engage with Myanmar on moving forward the MoU.“We continue the discussions with the government on this matter and other matters related to the MoU,” he said.

Myanmar signed a tripartite MoU with UNHCR and UNDP on June 6 regarding preparation for the repatriation of the Rohingya. Earlier in November last year, Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a MoU on repatriation, but the Rohingya and UN said the conditions in Rakhine were not conducive for Rohingya return yet.

On Wednesday, the two UN agencies said they had submitted request on June 14 for the staff to be based in Maungdaw and to start their work in the northern part of Rakhine State, but they were waiting for response from the government.

Related Topics: Myanmar Government, northern Rakhine State

Source: https://www.thedailystar.net/news/rohingya-crisis/un-staff-granted-access-rakhine-1618861

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Atrocities against Rohingyas: Myanmar says ICC has no jurisdiction on them

06:58 PM, August 09, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 09:06 PM, August 09, 2018

 

Atrocities against Rohingyas: Myanmar says ICC has no jurisdiction on them

 UNB, Dhaka

A Rohingya refugee looks on as the Kutupalong camp is seen on the background in Ukhia on August 8, 2018. Photo: AFP

Myanmar today said the International Criminal Court (ICC) has no jurisdiction to run a case on atrocities against Rohingyas. “Myanmar is not party to the Rome Statute and the Court has no jurisdiction on Myanmar whatsoever,” said Myanmar’s Ministry of the Office of the State Counsellor in a statement.

The ICC, Myanmar said, has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It came up with the observations as the ICC wanted to know Myanmar’s opinion on whether The Hague-based court has jurisdiction to run the case.

 Read More

Is Bangladesh headed for a prolonged Rohingya crisis?

‘IOM to help Bangladesh repatriate Rohingyas’

Myanmar came with its decision at a time when a high-level delegation led by Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali is on a four-day visit to Myanmar to discuss progress on Rohingya repatriation with Myanmar leadership.

The Bangladesh delegation comprising members of joint working group formed earlier for repatriation of Rohingyas living in Bangladesh will see what steps Myanmar has taken so far for creating conducive environment for safe return of Rohingyas.

Minister Ali is likely to go to Northern Rakhine apart from holding meetings with the Myanmar leaders, another official told UNB. After Bangladesh, the ICC now wanted to know Myanmar’s opinion on the matter.

The pre-trial Chamber of the ICC invited the competent authorities of Myanmar to submit written observations, either publicly or confidentially, on three specific matters by July 27, a senior official told UNB.

The three specific areas are the possibility of the Court’s exercise of territorial jurisdiction over the alleged deportation of members of the Rohingya people from Myanmar into Bangladesh; the circumstances surrounding the crossing of the border by members of the Rohingya people from Myanmar into Bangladesh; and any other matter in connection with the Prosecutor’s Request that, in the opinion of the competent authorities of Myanmar, would assist the Chamber in its determination of this request.

But Myanmar has declined to engage with the ICC by way of a formal reply showing some reasons. Myanmar said the request by the prosecutor may be interpreted as an indirect attempt to acquire jurisdiction over Myanmar which is not a State Party to the Rome Statute.

“Myanmar, as a non-State Party, is under no obligation to enter into litigation with the prosecutor at the ICC or even to accept note verbales emanating from their registry,” reads the statement. It said Myanmar is concerned with the lack of “fairness and transparency” of the ICC proceedings.

Earlier, Bangladesh opted for ‘confidential’ mode of submission to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Rohingya issue which it thinks as a testimony of its ‘keenness to seek bilateral solution’ to this problem.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, globally known as ‘Mother of Humanity’ for her courageous move and generous support to the victims of ethnic cleansing from Rakhine state of Myanmar, was left with no option but to act as per tenets of its history and spirit of humanity,” a Foreign Ministry source told UNB.

Bangladesh concurred with both the territorial jurisdiction as well as the claim of forcible deportation of Rohingyas as Bangladesh believes in ‘establishing accountability for the atrocities’ committed against the Rohingya people from Myanmar.

As a State Party to the ICC, Bangladesh is obliged to follow the court’s requests and suggestions. International pressure on Myanmar is mounting afresh as it remained ‘very slow’ in creating conditions for the safe return of Rohingyas from Bangladesh.

Earlier, Bangladesh, being one of the State Parties to the Rome Statute, responded to the request of the ICC regarding the Rohingya situation, particularly about the territorial jurisdiction of the ICC as Bangladesh is seeking a “sustainable solution” to the crisis.

A diplomat in Dhaka said in 1993 when the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was established, few believed that suspects like Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leaders, would ever have to account for themselves.

Analysing the current situation, another diplomat said, “Time is quite right for history to repeat itself.” Bangladesh submitted written observations confidentially on three specific matters.

Related Topics: Rohingya crisis, ICC

 Source: https://www.thedailystar.net/news/rohingya-crisis/atrocities-against-rohingyas-myanmar-says-icc-has-no-jurisdiction-them-repatriation-bangladesh-1618243

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UN wants tangible progress to improve conditions in Rakhine

04:58 PM, August 08, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:32 PM, August 08, 2018

UN wants tangible progress to improve conditions in Rakhine

‘Root causes, citizenship for Rohingyas need to be addressed’

UNB, Dhaka

An aerial view shows burned down villages once inhabited by the Rohingya seen from the Myanmar military helicopters that carried the UN envoys to northern Rakhine state, Myanmar, May 1, 2018.Reuters’s file photo

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and UNDP, the UN’s development agency, on Wednesday urged Myanmar authorities to make tangible progress to improve conditions in Rakhine State. The call came within two months of the signing of the tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between UNHCR, UNDP, and the government of Myanmar.

In a joint statement, the UN agencies said the Myanmar government’s willingness to take the lead in the implementation of this agreement is critical to creating conditions conducive for the voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees.

The signing of the tripartite MoU with the government of Myanmar will not, in itself, allow Rohingya refugees to return home to Myanmar, according to the statement received from UNHCR. In line with the MoU, the UN agencies said, root causes need to be addressed by implementing the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, including a clear, voluntary and equal pathway to citizenship for all eligible individuals.

The government has taken some encouraging steps since the MoU was signed on June 6, including the formation of a tripartite Technical Working Group to support the implementation of the MoU; enabling an important visit by senior UNHCR and UNDP officials to the northern part of Rakhine State in early July; and facilitating an initial joint field visit to Rakhine State by the Technical Working Group mid-July.

However, the UN agencies said, substantial progress is urgently needed in three key areas covered by the MoU: granting effective access in Rakhine State; ensuring freedom of movement for all communities; and addressing the root causes of the crisis.

First, they said, effective access requires being able to consult, freely and independently and on a day-to-day basis, with communities in Rakhine State about their needs. It also necessitates a predictable, flexible and simplified procedure to approve travel authorizations within a reasonable period of time for UNHCR and UNDP staff to go to the areas where these communities reside, according to UNHCR

These are basic criteria for enabling us to carry out our work in the areas of Rakhine State covered by the MoU. On June 14, UNHCR and UNDP submitted travel authorization requests for international staff to be based in Maungdaw and to start their work in the northern part of Rakhine State, and are waiting for a response from the Government to these requests.

Secondly, freedom of movement as well as increased public services delivery are crucial for all communities in Rakhine State, irrespective of religion, ethnicity or citizenship status. During the visit by senior UNHCR and UNDP officials in early July, it was evident that the remaining communities in the northern part of Rakhine State continue to live in fear of one another.

All communities have been affected by the violence, but the remaining Rohingya communities are affected most of all. In particular, local orders severely restrict their freedom of movement. These restrictions prevent Rohingya communities from being able to work, go to school, and access healthcare.

They also prevent them from being able to interact with friends, family, and other communities in Rakhine State. Freedom to move was one of the most frequent requests expressed by Rohingya communities during the UNHCR-UNDP visit.

Third, it is fundamental to address the root causes of the crisis. The most sobering feature of northern areas of Rakhine State today is the empty space where villages used to stand. Unused and empty paddy fields are a stark reminder of the missing population who used to cultivate them.

The UN agencies said confidence building measures need to take root, starting with facilitating access for UNHCR and UNDP to commence needs assessment visits to identify quick-impact projects in priority village tracts that have been agreed with the Government.

UNHCR together with UNDP remains prepared to support Myanmar in improving conditions in Rakhine State and operationalizing the MoU, reads the statement.

Related Topics: UNHCR, UNDP, Rakhine state, Myanmar Rohingya Refugee

 Source: https://www.thedailystar.net/news/rohingya-crisis/united-nations-wants-tangible-progress-improve-conditions-rakhine-state-rohingya-refugee-myanmar-1617649

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