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1st-ever Rohingya team to visit Myanmar this week to ‘assess conditions’ for repatriation

A 20-member Rohingya team is set to visit Myanmar this week to assess the condition in the Rakhine State of Myanmar for possible repatriation before this monsoon, according to Bangladeshi officials.

Sources in the Foreign Ministry told Anadolu: “The visit is aimed at building confidence among the refugees for a safe, voluntary, and dignified repatriation.”

The Foreign Ministry officials in the field working on refugee management will also accompany the team.

Speaking to Anadolu, Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammed Mizanur Rahman said it is a positive development to start a peaceful and dignified repatriation of the forcibly displaced citizens of Myanmar.

“I am hopeful that after a long gap, a significant sign of Rohingya repatriation has been visible,” Rahman said.

He, however, added that it will depend on how the Myanmar authorities receive their citizens.

The ministry officials hoped the repatriation would start before this monsoon.

The monsoon season normally lasts from June through October.

This is the first Rohingya refugees’ official visit after their exodus in August 2017. The team is expected to visit Myanmar on May 5 following a rare visit of Myanmar junta officials to the refugee camps on the southeast coast of Bangladesh in March this year.

More than 1.2 million Rohingya Muslims forcibly displaced from Myanmar live in 33 congested refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, with another 30,000 relocated to Bhasan Char, an island in the Bay of Bengal. Most of the refugees fled a brutal military crackdown in Rakhine, a state on the western coast of Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

Earlier on Tuesday, Chinese Ambassador to Dhaka Yao Wen went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a meeting with acting Foreign Secretary Md. Khurshed Alam in Dhaka.

“Efforts are underway to start the repatriation of Rohingya this month with the mediation of China before the start of monsoon season. And, Bangladesh, China, and Myanmar are working to make the repatriation successful,” according to the sources.

Bangladesh earlier made the proposal to send the Rohingya living in the Bangladeshi refugee camps to visit Rakhine state in advance to monitor the situation. After waiting for so many years, Myanmar has agreed to allow Rohingya to visit Myanmar.

In the first phase, over 1,100 pre-screened Rohingya are supposed to go under this arrangement if it is successful. Many such initiatives failed earlier due to non-cooperation from the Myanmar side.

On March 15, a 22-member high-level delegation from Myanmar came to Bangladesh and held meetings with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh’s camps under Chinese mediation for a week to verify a list of 429 Rohingya Muslims prepared by Bangladesh for repatriation.

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