YANGON — The government has estimated it can take back about 300 Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh per day and said there is a need to scrutinize the refugees under the four main principles of a 1993 agreement between the two countries.
“We can only process about 150 [refugees] in a checkpoint per day as we have to scrutinize and check their information,” said U Myint Kyaing, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population.
The government has said it would accept the refugees at two checkpoints in Taungpyo Letwe and Nga Khu Ya villages before resettling them in Dar Gyi Zar village in Maungdaw Township.
There have been suggestions from the Bangladesh government to amend parts of the 1993 agreement that allows the return of Rohingya who can prove residence in Myanmar but the four main principles of the agreement won’t change, said the permanent secretary.
The four main principles state returnees need evidence of their residence in Myanmar, repatriation must be voluntary, the parents of children born in camps must have lived in Myanmar, and refugees separated from their families need confirmation of this from a Bangladeshi court.
But under the agreement, additional measures in the repatriation process may be needed, said the permanent secretary, adding that these measurements would include taking legal action against any “terrorists” among the returnees on the spot.
He added that the governments of the two countries are still negotiating to sign an MOU for the repatriation of the refugees.
A delegation led by Simon Henshaw, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, will also meet with government officials and humanitarian agencies to discuss efforts to improve conditions for the significant influx of refugees into Bangladesh, according to the State Department.
Some 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have now fled across the border to Bangladesh from Myanmar Army clearance operations in a campaign the UN calls ethnic cleansing. The refugees say security forces were killing civilians, burning homes, and raping Rohingya women.
The army launched its operations in the wake of deadly attacks on police outposts by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on Aug. 25, which was declared a terrorist group by the government.
There is a huge gap regarding the numbers of people who fled to Bangladesh between the ground survey of Rakhine State government and UN statistics, according to the President’s Office.
“We have nothing to argue on the number [of refugees]. Whatever the number they are saying, we won’t accept if they don’t have evidence of their residence here,” U Myint Kyaing said.