By Mir Afroz Zaman
Dhaka: Bangladesh and Myanmar have held their first bilateral meeting on the Rohingya issue but there were no indications of an early end to the dragging refugee crisis.
The Thursday night bilateral was the first meeting after an earlier tripartite meeting mediated by China. The Bangladesh Foreign Ministry said both sides expressed their goodwill to find out the reasons for the delay in deciding whether the Rohingyas who took refuge in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh were Rakhine residents.
According to the Ministry, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Shah Rezwan Hayat led the Bangladesh delegation. The Myanmar team was led by Ye Tun O, Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Immigration and Population. Dhaka said the two countries would meet again.
Bangladesh said it handed over to Myanmar a list of 8 lakh Rohingyas, of which only 42,000 had been “verified” by the latter. The Foreign Ministry said that Rezwan Hayat “has expressed frustration over Myanmar’s slowness in identifying Rohingya” who fled to Bangladesh after a military crackdown.
Hayat said that sustainable repatriation of displaced people could be started if the complexities and shortcomings in the verification process could be overcome. It was necessary to create a conducive environment in Rakhine state and restore confidence among the displaced people to return home, he said.
The Myanmar delegation promised to help complete the unfinished verification process, citing technical complications and lack of information. Within a few months after the start of a military operation in Rakhine on August 25, 2017, more than seven lakh Rohingyas took refuge in Bangladesh. There were already four lakh more Rohingyas in Bangladesh.
The Myanmar government signed an agreement with Bangladesh in late 2017 to repatriate the Rohingya but the repatriation has not started yet. In 2019, the Rohingya refused to return, citing concerns over the security environment in Rakhine state.