Bangladesh and Myanmar sign agreement on Rohingya repatriation

Dhaka authorities expect the repatriation to commence within two months. Aung San Suu Kyi has promised that transfers will be "safe and voluntary". Activists are concerned about the conditions of refugees, who no longer have the villages to return to.

Dhaka (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Dhaka and Naypyidaw have reached agreement on the repatriation of Muslim Rohingya refugees. The agreement was signed yesterday in Burmese capital by the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali and Democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi. More details about the transfer conditions will be announced in the coming days. For now, sources close to the Bangladesh authorities suggest that repatriation will "start in two months".

Activist groups raise concerns about the repatriation process. In particular, they ask to specify where the refugees will be relocated, after hundreds of villages have been burned or razed to the ground.

The agreement comes after weeks of intense negotiations between the two countries and on the eve of Pope Francis’ journey to both states, starting next November 27. The Rohingya refugee crisis has reached proportions of a major emergency. According to the latest data, nce August 25 more than 620,000 Rakhine state refugees have crossed the border with Bangladesh in an attempt to escape the violence committed by both sides, the army and militants of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army(ARSA).

These refugees are added to 200,000 more people who also fled from Myanmar in recent years. They mostly live in makeshift huts in the Cox's Bazaar area, and survive through the help of humanitarian agencies and the support provided by the Church.

At first reluctant to welcome the massive wave of refugees, the Dhaka government later opened its borders, at the same time pointing out that the displaced would remain in the country only until the end of the emergency, and would then be returned to their places of origin. On the Burmese side, Aung San Suu Kyi has promised that repatriations will be "safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable".