Setting a process for starting repatriation of Rohingyas of Myanmar looks set for a disruption as the government is yet to prepare an appropriate list of people intending to return to Rakhine State. 
The Bangladesh and the Myanmar governments are to start negotiations on January 15 for signing a bilateral instrument on installing physical arrangements for laying a process of return by January 22. 
A good number of government officials involved in preparing the list of prospective returnees, however, seem not to feel the urgency of setting the process by January 22. 
‘We have a broad list as most of the Rohingyas who crossed over to Bangladesh are registered,’ Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Abul Kalam told New Age on Wednesday, adding, ‘A list in an appropriate format, in which it is supposed to be handed over, is yet to be prepared.’ 
The government has so far registered about 9,65,000 Rohingyas as the members of minority community in Rakhine continued to cross over to Bangladesh till Wednesday, officials in Cox’s Bazar said. 
Handing over a random list of Rohingyas ‘will not be helpful’ in starting repatriation, a government official said, as the two governments would require working on a list prepared based on ‘families’ from ‘adjacent areas in Rakhine State’.
The two sides will hold the first meeting of the newly formed joint working group of the two countries on January 15 in Myanmar capital Nay Pyi Taw for signing a specific bilateral instrument on physical arrangement, officials said. 
Foreign secretary M Shahidul Haque will lead the 15-member Bangladesh side in the 30-member JWG. Myanmar foreign ministry’s permanent secretary Myint Thu is expected to lead the delegation the other side of the table. 
The agreed terms-of-reference mandated the JWG to undertake all necessary measures to start the safe and voluntary return, resettlement and reintegration process of displaced Myanmar residents as envisaged in the ‘Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State’ signed by foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali and Kyaw Tint Swe, Myanmar union minister at the State Counsellor’s Office on November 23. 
In the ‘arrangement’ the government has agreed, at the request of Myanmar, to accept the principles of verification of nationalities of Rohingyas described in the 1992 ‘statement’ for beginning repatriation of Rohingyas who crossed over to Bangladesh from Rakhine State only after October 9, 2016.
According to the TOR, the JWG will develop physical arrangement for return, which would include mechanism of verification, time schedule, transport and logistic arrangements, reception procedures, communication etc to commence the repatriation process within the stipulated time frame mentioned in the ‘arrangement’ deal. 
The two countries agreed that the process of return should commence within two months from November 23 and ‘be completed within a reasonable time from the date the first batch of returnees is received’. 
Asked about the possibility of involving the UN and international organisations in the repatriation process, a government official said they would consider the matter after agreeing on a physical arrangement with Myanmar. 
Over 6,55,500 Rohingyas, mostly women, children and aged people, entered Bangladesh fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape during ‘security operations’ by Myanmar military in Rakhine, what the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing, between August 25 and January 7. Several international authorities denounced the operations as genocide. 
The military-controlled Myanmar government committed, according to the November 23 ‘arrangement’, to take back over 7,40,000 Rohingyas who crossed over the border since October last year. 
The ongoing Rohingya influx took the total number of undocumented Myanmar nationals and registered refugees in Bangladesh to over 10,74,000 till January 7, according to estimates by UN agencies.

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