Bangladesh, Myanmar officials agree to draft repatriation deal for Rohingya Muslims

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"The talks were held in a friendly atmosphere and Myanmar has made a proposal to take back the Rohingya refugees", the minister told reporters after meeting Myanmar's Minister of the Office of State Counselor Kyaw Tint Swe in Dhaka.

Bangladeshi men help Rohingya refugees to disembark from a boat on the Bangladeshi shoreline of the Naf river after crossing the border from Myanmar in Teknaf.

They have been the target of decades of state-backed persecution and discrimination in Myanmar, where many view them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.


At Monday's meeting, Bangladesh proposed signing a bilateral agreement for the repatriation process and handed over a draft to the Myanmar delegation, the Minister added.

"I see today's development very positively, but we know Myanmar's previous behaviour when it comes to Rohingya and their repatriation", said Delwar Hossain, a professor of global relations at Dhaka University.

Over half a million Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh since the start of a military crackdown in the Myanmar border state of Rakhine.

Asked if there was any timeframe fixed for forming the joint working group, the minister evaded a direct answer saying "the process has started" but said Bangladesh's Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan would "soon visit Myanmar to discuss the issue".

Rohingya Muslim refugees who had just arrived wait for a place to stay at Bangladesh's Balukhali refugee camp on October 2, 2017.

More than half a million have arrived over the last five weeks after militant attacks in Myanmar's Rakhine state sparked violent reprisals which the United Nations has said could amount to ethnic cleansing in the Buddhist-dominated country.

An estimated 507,000 Rohingya Muslims cross the border into Bangladesh's south-eastern Cox's Bazar district after Burmese military launched a crackdown on suspected Muslim insurgents on August 25.

Myanmar has refused to grant access to the United Nations fact-finding mission but Suu Kyi appointed Annan a year ago to lead an advisory commission and propose solutions.

But no details of the planned repatriation were given by Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H Mahmood Ali, and there was widespread scepticism over whether any of the more than 800,000 Muslim Rohingya now in Bangladesh would return.