Bangladesh and Myanmar are going to set up a Joint Working Group next week to facilitate the repatriation of thousands of Rohingyas who fled violence in Rakhine State.
As per an initial agreement, signed on November 23, the two countries were supposed to form the JWG within three weeks.
But they failed to set it up by December 14 due to some procedural complexities.
“We have completed the preliminary work for setting up the body. A Myanmar delegation will arrive in Dhaka on Tuesday to take forward the process of forming the Joint Working Group,” a senior foreign ministry official said.
The two sides would meet in Dhaka on Tuesday and an agreement on the Rohingyas' repatriation would be reached in a “speedy manner”, the official added.
Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque and Permanent Secretary of the Myanmar foreign ministry Myint Thu will lead their respective delegations to the meeting.
The 24-member JWG is likely to be composed of officials from home and foreign ministries of the two countries.
According to the November 23 agreement, the return of the Rohingyas should start within two months.
More than 647,000 Rohingyas have crossed into Bangladesh since August 25, escaping a military crackdown in Rakhine.
Rohingyas will have to fill in forms with names of family members, addresses in Myanmar, birth date and sign a statement of voluntary return. The requirements for identification documents have been a contentious issue for the stateless Rohingya.
UN bodies and rights groups have voiced concern over the “premature” repatriation process. They raised questions about the safety and resettlement of the returnees as hundreds of their villages have been razed and an anti-Muslim sentiment is in existence in Rakhine.
However, foreign ministry officials in Dhaka told The Daily Star that Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to take help from the UNHCR in the repatriation process.
“The signing of the arrangement in Myanmar was an initial step... there are more steps to go,” they said, adding that the JWG would soon finalise the terms and conditions of the bilateral arrangement.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh has conveyed to the United Nations that a Joint Working Group will be formed soon.
Ambassador Masud Bin Momen, permanent representative of Bangladesh to the UN, said this at a recent meeting of the UN Security Council in New York on the situation in Myanmar.
Momen said Bangladesh continues to receive fresh arrivals of the Rohingya, with an average of 100-400 people entering the country daily.
He said it appeared that the situation in Rakhine was still volatile. He expressed concern over recurrent reports of arson in Rohingya localities in northern and central Rakhine.
The envoy said the bilateral arrangement's mandate was only limited to the possible voluntary repatriation of the Rohingya, whereas the root causes and other related questions and issues would have to be addressed by Myanmar.
The Third Committee of the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on “Situation of human rights in Myanmar” on November 16 by an open vote.
The resolution will be placed before the General Assembly Plenary for final adoption soon.
Besides, a special session of the UN Human Rights Council was convened in Geneva on December 5 where another resolution was adopted on the human rights situation in Myanmar.
ENVOYS TO VISIT
Around 19 ambassadors and high commissioners, based in New Delhi and concurrently accredited to Bangladesh, will arrive in Dhaka today to hold talks with the government and visit Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar.
Diplomatic sources said the envoys from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Mauritius, Portugal, Slovenia, Ukraine, Zambia, Nigeria, Austria, Ghana, New Zealand, Kenya and Fiji are coming to Bangladesh at the invitation of the Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi.
The diplomats will hold a meeting with the Bangladesh foreign secretary and other top government officials. They will travel to Cox's Bazar on December 16.