Bangladesh Hands Over List of 492,000 Rohingya to Myanmar

By Muktadir Rashid   20 March 2020

Dhaka –Bangladesh’s foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said on Friday that details of 492,000 Rohingya sheltering in Cox’s Bazar for immediate repatriation had been handed to the Myanmar authorities.

The minister told The Irrawaddy that Bangladesh had now handed over detailed information about approximately 600,000 Rohingya in Bangladesh but the response about repatriation had been extremely poor.

“In the past, we have given a list of 1.05 lakh [105,000] people and now we have given the list of 4.92 lakh [492,000]. There is now a 600,000 population. But they have verified a very insignificant number from the list so far,” Momen added.

Around 9,000 Rohingya from the lists were cleared for return to Rakhine State, according to the Dhaka authorities.

“We have handed over a comprehensive list. It is not a list of names. Rather we are providing detailed information on who came and from which places, their relatives and identities along with all data and biometric information. With the list, it is very simple to identify the family,” the minister said.

“But they took the lists and did not make any further comment. They even do not say yes or no.

“We can’t do anything by force. They have created the problem and the solution also lies with them. We can only make requests from them. What else we can do? Should we go to war? I do not think so. War is not a solution. We are a peace-loving nation,” Momen said.

“Look at the Middle East. War has not brought peace. When there is war, the economy is badly affected. That is why we are putting all types of pressures on them. Our friends are also applying pressure.

“China is helping and [Myanmar promised China] that it would repatriate its nationals. But [Myanmar] did not keep its promise,” the minister lamented.

Bangladesh on March 18 handed over the list of 492,000 Rohingya to Myanmar for verification to facilitate their return to Rakhine State.

The Dhaka-based Daily New Age reported that Myanmar’s ambassador in Dhaka, Aung Kyaw Moe, received the list. The paper said it was the fifth time that the Bangladeshi authorities had handed over a list for verification of forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals to enable their return.

The Bangladesh government said it handed over lists of about 106,000 Rohingya in 2018 and 2019.

“We always believe that Myanmar will keep its promise as they have never said ‘no’. They always say they will bring them back. And they even ask for lists. And that is why we sent the list,” Momen, said.

“They never have said they would not bring back their nationals,” Momen told the media. He added: “It’s not frustration from our side, rather we are continuously hammering. We are also continuously getting updates over what will be done. But nothing is happening.”

Myanmar Embassy in Dhaka was not available for comments on Friday.

The coronavirus outbreak could hinder repatriation efforts, the minister added. “We do not want to lose our direction.”

State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Md Enamur Rahman told The Irrawaddy that they saw little hope after a meeting in February with China and Myanmar.

“One month after the meeting, we saw no development from their side,” he added.

He said the Rohingya were looking for dignified and safe repatriation.

Bangladeshi rights defender and Rohingya specialist Nur Khan Liton said the issue was to ensure safety during repatriation and that a “conducive environment” should be created in Rakhine State.

“We know the focus will be shifted globally following the spread of the coronavirus,” Nur said. “If dignified repatriation is not done in a timely fashion, persecuted Rohingya will look forward to finding their solution to determine their identity.”

In August 2019, a second attempt to repatriate the Rohingya to Myanmar from Bangladesh failed after no refugees agreed to voluntarily board the buses to Myanmar considering their returns would be safer.

Bangladesh and Myanmar have signed at least three agreements on the return of the Rohingya.

Two attempts to start repatriations failed. Sources say Myanmar has not created an environment conducive for their return with the assurance of granting them citizenship, security and freedom of movement.

More than 1,000,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh after fleeing murder, arson and rape during security operations by the Myanmar military in Rakhine in what the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing and genocide after August 25, 2017.