Norway to expedite global efforts to ensure 'voluntary, safe' Rohingya repatriation

Norway has laid emphasis on working together to make sure that things are improving on Myanmar side and expediting the global efforts to ensure the “voluntary and safe” return of Rohingyas to Rakhine state in Myanmar.

“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,” Norwegian ambassador to Bangladesh Sidsel Bleken told UNB in an interview.

Ambassador Bleken, now in Oslo to attend the annual meeting of ambassadors on Monday, said she will have talks with the envoys of the neighbouring countries and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states to find ways how they can do together in the region.

She said the role Norway can play is to be part of the international community’s dialogue with Myanmar authorities, support the UN efforts and have dialogue with a number of other countries in the region that may have greater influence in the region.

Bangladesh and Myanmar are trying to go for the second attempt to begin the repatriation of Rohingyas this month with a tentative date, 22 August.

The first batch of Rohingyas was scheduled to return on 15 November last year but it was halted amid unwillingness of Rohingyas to go back for lack of a friendly environment in Rakhine.

Earlier, Bangladesh foreign minister AK Abdul Momen hoped that the repatriation of Rohingyas will begin this month on a small scale. “I’m very positive…I’m expecting that we can start this month.”

Asked whether the repatriation will begin on Thursday, a senior official involved in repatriation process said nothing was confirmed yet regarding the date.

Talking about the likelihood of resuming repatriation, ambassador Bleken echoed what the United Nations and many other countries have said before that repatriation must be “voluntary and safe.”

The envoy said she would love to see the repatriation takes place but reminded that there are three parties -- Myanmar, Bangladesh and Rohingyas themselves.

“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 added.

On 29 July, Bangladesh handed a fresh list of 25,000 Rohingyas from around 6,000 families to Myanmar for verification before their repatriation to Rakhine state.

With the latest list, Bangladesh has so far handed the names of around 55,000 Rohingyas to the Myanmar authorities and around 8,000 of them have been verified.

Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas and most of them entered the country since 25 August 2017. Bangladesh and Myanmar signed the repatriation deal on 23 November 2017.

On 16 January 2018, Bangladesh and Myanmar inked a document on “Physical Arrangement”, which was supposed to facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland.

The “Physical Arrangement” stipulates that the repatriation will be completed preferably within two years from the start.

ICOE Team to Visit Camp

The delegation of Myanmar’s Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE) that arrived Bangladesh on Saturday, is likely to visit Cox’s Bazar Rohingya camps on Monday (19 August), said an official.

The delegation will also have meetings with government officials and the officials of UN agencies in Cox’s Bazar.

Former Japanese ambassador Kenzo Oshima is leading the delegation.