Govt targets 100,000 Rohingya for first repatriation

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MNA Exclusive Desk: The government wants to send up to 100,000 Rohingya back to Myanmar in the first batch of repatriations of Muslims who fled ethnic violence this year, officials said Friday.

Obaidul Quader said a list of 100,000 names was to be sent to Myanmar authorities on Friday so repatriations could start in late January under an accord between the two governments.

More than 655,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar’s Rakhine state have sought refuge in Bangladesh since a military crackdown in late August, fleeing what the US and United Nations have described as ethnic cleansing.

That added to more than 300,000 in camps in Bangladesh after fleeing earlier violence in the Buddhist majority state.

The two governments signed an agreement in November allowing for repatriations from 23 January. Many aid groups and diplomats doubt that fearful Rohingya will agree to return.

Quader said repatriations would start as soon as a working group of officials from the two countries finalise a list of names.

“Based on the decision of the joint working group, a first list of 100,000 Rohingya will be sent to the Myanmar government today for their safe and honourable return,” Quader, road transport minister and deputy leader of the ruling Awami League, told reporters during a visit to Cox’s Bazar.

“The next meeting of the working group, which will be held in Myanmar, will decide how the repatriation process begins,” Quader added.

“This list will be finalised as early as possible. The repatriation process will begin after the list is finalised.”