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Wait for Rohingya repatriation gets even longer

January 29, 2024

DHAKA – With the escalation of conflict in Myanmar, the possibility of Rohingya repatriation materialising anytime soon has become remote, heaping the challenges for the Bangladesh government in managing the displaced people in the face of shrinking humanitarian aid for them.

Since the biggest influx of Rohingyas from Myanmar’s Rakhine State in August 2017, there have been three attempts to repatriate Rohingyas: once in 2018, once in 2019 and most recently in 2023.

All three attempts failed as the Rohingyas maintained that there was no guarantee of their safety and citizenship if they went back.

In May last year, a group of Rohingyas visited the Rakhine State for the first time after they fled the land to escape a military clampdown to see the ground reality. Myanmar officials spoke to the Rohingyas in person and verified their identities in the cases that had problems.

Then in July last year, Deng Xijun, the Chinese Special Envoy for Asian Affairs, visited Myanmar and discussed ways to repatriate the Rohingyas from Bangladesh.

Deng brokered an arrangement under which the Rohingyas would be allowed to live in their original villages and not in any camp. This was communicated to Bangladesh in August last year.

For further talks, a delegation from Bangladesh went to the Myanmar capital Naypyidaw the following month.

Under a pilot programme, about 12,000 Rohingyas were supposed to be repatriated in 2023, according to foreign ministry officials.

However, the plan was dashed, first by Cyclone Hamoon and later by the eruption of conflict between Myanmar’s armed opposition groups and the ruling military that began in February 2021. Both the events took place within days of one another.

The Myanmar National