The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called in the UNHCR chief in Bangladesh to discuss the upcoming Rohingya repatriation after the UN’s comment in New York. “It’s not a summons. We thought there is a room for discussion. There should be no gap between us as we were always in discussion,” Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque told reporters when asked at the Foreign Service Academy on Saturday.
He said they had set Nov 15 as a possible date for the start of the first batchs repatriation.
Bangladesh and Myanmar after the third joint working group meeting in Dhaka on Wednesday announced that the repatriation from Coxs Bazar would start in mid-November.
Later, Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for UN Secretary General António Guterres, said the announcement took the UN refugee agency by surprise as they had not been consulted, a claim that prompted Dhaka to ask the UNHRC chief to meet the director general of the UN wing on Saturday.
“This [the UN comment] is not right. Today we have called the UNHCR head to meet the DG UN and discussed that. We have shared with them all the information almost at the same time we did with Myanmar in writing. Theres no gap,” Haque said.
He, however, did not mention any specific number of the Rohingyas marked for repatriation. Officials indicated that the number would be around 2,200 people from 485 families.
The foreign secretary said they have been working with the UN agencies and UNHCR from the beginning of the repatriation process.
“The joint working group has discussed everything in detail. We have briefed the UN agencies and the Myanmar side also briefed them when they visited Rohingya camps after the joint working group meeting, and sought their (UN) support,” he said.
“Its a comprehensive process.”
Over 700,000 Rohingyas fled a brutal military crackdown since August last year. Both neighbours later signed deals to start the repatriation.
After the joint working group meeting, the Myanmar foreign secretary visited the Rohingya camps. He also showed pictures of the houses built for them in the Rakhine State, the foreign secretary said.
India and China are assisting Myanmar in building those houses.
“The Myanmar secretary briefed them that they will able to move freely and work for livelihood. For this, they have taken projects,” he said, adding that Myanmar showed pictures as proof of its preparations.
“This is something we did not see before,” he said, adding that the return will be a “big achievement”.
Myanmar also granted access to ICRC to the zero point to work for the 4,500 stranded Rohingyas there so that they can go back to their homes. At the same time, they are closing IDP camps.