DHAKA: The first batch of 6,000 Rohingya refugees would be sent back to Myanmar soon, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali said.
As Bangladesh tries to mount pressure on Myanmar to take back Rohingya refugees whose number has swelled to 1.2 million in refugee camps in Cox's Bazaar district of Bangladesh, diplomatic efforts with the help of India and United Nations are being mounted on Myanmar for return of Rohingyas who have fled Myanmar and taken shelter on Bangladeshi soil.
''India has almost completed construction of 250 houses in Rakhine state of Myanmar and China has promised to build another 1,000 to facilitate the return of Rohingyas. There was a joint meeting held recently in New York between India, Bangladesh and China which was also attended by UN Secretary-General as well as UN's special envoy to Myanmar. The effort is to make repatriation of Rohingyas possible,'' he said.
Addressing a delegation of international journalists in Dhaka on Sunday, Mr Ali said that as part of the joint working group mechanism, Myanmar officials have visited the Rakhine state and the only long lasting solution to Rohingya refugee problem was to create conducive conditions for them to go back to their own country.
He admitted that Rohingya problem was affecting cooperation between Bangladesh and Myanmar.
He said that Bangladesh has developed an island in the Bay of Bengal and readied shelter facilities with strong concrete pillars where a majority of Rohingya refugees could be shifted.
''Entire world has congratulated our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for giving shelter to Rohingyas on humanitarian grounds but it is a temporary measure. Only permanent solution is to send them back.
There are concerns in Bangladesh as the number of Rohingyas has overtaken local population in Cox's Bazaar area where they have been housed temporarily. We have no other long term solution but to repatriate them. Ultimately, we would like to send them back,'' the Foreign Minister said.
He also pointed to ongoing efforts between Bangladesh-Myanmar to strengthen their cooperation in a number of fields like tourism, development of Buddhist circuit and civil aviation despite the recent Rohingya refugee issue.