1 April 2020

Bangladesh says to meet with Myanmar on Rohingya trapped at border

KONFRONTASI-Representatives from Bangladesh and Myanmar will meet on Tuesday to discuss the repatriation to Myanmar of more than 6,500 Rohingya Muslims trapped on a strip of unclaimed land between the two countries, Bangladeshi officials said.

“It is about taking them back to Myanmar,” Relief and Refugee Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam, told Reuters on Monday. “They are on the zero line and actually on the Myanmar side.”

However, several officials contacted in neighboring Myanmar said they were not aware of plans for a meeting, which Kalam said would take place on the “zero line” near a place called Gundum.

A spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which will not be involved in the talks, said the agency was concerned the Rohingya may be forcibly returned to Myanmar without due consideration for their safety.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state and crossed into Bangladesh since last August, when attacks on security posts by insurgents triggered a military crackdown that the United Nations has said amounts to ethnic cleansing, with reports of arson attacks, murder and rape.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar denied the charge and says its security forces are fighting a legitimate campaign against “terrorists” it blames for the attacks on the security forces.

The vast majority of Rohingya who fled are in camps at Cox’s Bazar on the southern tip of Bangladesh, but several thousand who arrived in a buffer zone along the border are now stuck.

Bangladesh security forces have been instructed not to let these Rohingya cross the border, and many of them have said they would rather stay there to avoid becoming refugees in Bangladesh.

The no-man’s land, which is about the size of 40 soccer pitches, used to be an area of paddy fields, but is now dotted with the tarpaulin and bamboo shacks of displaced Rohingya.

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