Bangladesh and Myanmar will start repatriating Rohingya refugees in two months, Dhaka said on Thursday, as global pressure mounts over the crisis that has sent more than half a million people fleeing across the border. Around 6,20,000 Rohingya have poured into Bangladesh since August to what is now the world’s largest refugee camp, running from a Myanmar military crackdown that Washington said this week clearly constitutes “ethnic cleansing”.
The statement from secretary of state Rex Tillerson is the strongest US condemnation yet of the crackdown, accusing Myanmar’s security forces of perpetrating “horrendous atrocities” against the group. Following talks between Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Dhaka’s foreign minister A.H. Mahmood Ali, and after weeks of tussling over the terms of repatriation, the two sides inked a deal in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw on Thursday.
In a statement, Dhaka said they had agreed to start returning the refugees to mainly Buddhist Myanmar in two months. It said that a working group would be set up within three weeks to agree the arrangements for the repatriation. “This is a primary step. (They) will take back (Rohingya). Now we have to start working,” Ali told reporters in Naypyidaw. Rights groups have raised concerns about the process, including where the minority will be resettled after hundreds of their villages were razed, and how their safety will be ensured in a country where anti-Muslim sentiment is surging.