Norway to assist safe return of Rohingyas

rohingua refugees myanmar bangladesh
Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar to escape violence on 25 August 2017. Photo: Ashique Rushdi, USAID, on Flickr

Norway is ready to assist in efforts to return Rohingyas to their homes in the province of Rakhine State in Western Myanmar, after thousands have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.

Sidsel Bleken, Norwegian ambassador to Bangladesh, told the news media New Age Bangladesh that Norway will join global efforts in a safe and voluntary return of Rohingyas.

“We’ll have to work together to make sure that things are improving on Myanmar side. I’m working very closely with the Norwegian embassy in Yangon,” Sidsel Bleken said.

Apart from supporting the United Nations’ efforts, Norway hopes to take part in the dialogue with Myanmar authorities and other countries that might have greater influence in the region.

Safe and voluntary repatriation

On 23 November 2017, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation deal for Rohingya refugees. A few months later, on 16 January 2018, the two parties signed a document on ‘Physical Arrangement’. This document stipulates, that the repatriation of Rohingyas to Rakhine State should preferably be completed within two years from the date of signing.

22 August 2019 is set to be the tentative date that the repatriation of Rohingyas will begin. A senior official involved in the repatriation process could however not confirm the date, New Age Bangladesh writes.

Bangladesh and Myanmar have previously made such an attempt in 2018. On 15 November the first batch of Rohingyas was scheduled to return to Rakhine State.

myanmar rohingya rakhine state bangladesh
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have fled from Rakhine State (marked in red) in Western Myanmar (marked in orange) to Bangladesh (marked in yellow above Rakhine State). Photo: dany13 on Flickr

However, the plan failed as the selected Rohingyas felt the environment in the province was unwelcoming of them.

But A.K. Abdul Momen, foreign minister of Bangladesh, said earlier in August 2019, that he is hopeful the repatriation will be successful this time.

“I’m very positive…I’m expecting that we can start this month.”

Sidsel Bleken is also hoping for a success but stresses that in order for the repatriation to happen, Myanmar, Bangladesh and the Rohingyas must collaborate.

“Based on what I’ve seen and heard, they [Rohingya] really want to go back, but they don’t want to go back before they’re feeling safe,” she said adding that it is of utmost importance, that the Ronhingyas feel safe so they will return voluntarily.

More than 742,000 of the 1.1 million Rohingyas in Bangladesh have entered the country since 25 August 2017, when violence and fear struck Rakhine State again.

Bangladesh has been handing names of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar. Of 55,000 names Myanmar authorities have so far verified around 8,000.

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