Ready to begin repatriation: Government

Myanmar is ready to launch the repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh despite a delay announced by Bangladesh authorities.
Under the agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh, repatriation was slated to begin yesterday.
“We are ready to accept the first batch of returnees today as agreed, because under the agreement with Bangladesh, we must start the repatriation within two months and today is the day we slated to launch the repatriation,” said Dr. Win Myat Aye, Union Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement at the press conference in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday.
Myanmar has prepared two reception camps on its side of the border to take back up to 300 people per day.
“I want to reiterate that we are ready to accept the returnees from Bangladesh according to the list we sent to Bangladesh. To carry that out, we need international cooperation,” said U Myint Thu, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“We have heard the news that the Bangladesh side is not ready. As we have not received any official word, we contacted the Bangladeshi Embassy in Yangon and they said they have many steps to be taken,” U Kyaw Tin, Minister of International Cooperation, told reporters in Nay Pyi Taw.
Under the Physical Arrangement for Repatriation signed by the two sides in Nay Pyi Taw on 16 January, Myanmar would will receive verified returnees at Taung Pyo Letwe and Nga Khu Ya reception centres, while adding Hla Pho Kaung as a transit camp for the returnees.
“We will increase the number of returnees depending on the situation. We will review the repatriation process within three months,” said U Thaung Tun, Union Minister for the Office of the Union Government.
Asked about coordination between the two governments, Union Minister Dr. Win Myat Aye said Myanmar will carry on the repatriation process after seeking agreement with Bangladesh when the neighbouring country offers coordination.
“The governments of the two countries are trying to solve this issue, but some are trying to complicate this issue so that they can get international attention,” said Union Minister U Kyaw Tin.
He also said that Myanmar sent forms to be filled out by returnees with the help of UNHCR and Bangladesh signed an agreement with UNHCR to carry out the repatriation process on their side and they need to take time to carry out several steps on the ground.
Asked if a time limit is set for the repatriation, Dr. Win Myat Aye said the government is fully carrying out repatriation efforts and were ready to receive the returnees as of Tuesday.
“The repatriation is targeted to be accomplished within two years, or, it can finish before the two-year time frame, or it can take longer than the set time,” said Dr. Win Myat Aye.
Regarding access to Rakhine State by reporters, Union Minister U Thaung Tun said journalists would get freedom of access to information, but safety is considered first in conflict areas and authorities are managing the situation there so as not to create unnecessary problems.
Seventeen journalists will soon go to Rakhine State along with the Rakhine Advisory Board, he added.—Myanmar News Agency

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