Myanmar announced on Tuesday that it signed an agreement with its neighbor Bangladesh on Monday to repatriate the 200 Bangladeshi migrants rescued by its navy. Meanwhile, Indonesian officials also said that Bangladesh has agreed to take back its migrants.
Myanmar had rescued 208 people, trying to reach Thailand and Malaysia for work, from a vessel off the coast of western Rakhine state on Friday. Of these migrants, 200 were found to be Bangladeshis from Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong and northern Dhaka. The remaining eight were identified as “Bengalis” from Rakhine, Reuters reported.
Mohamod Mufa Zalhusin, one of the migrants on the boat, said he had only visited the Cox’s Bazar beach and was brought to a boat forcibly by two people, Reuters reported. "The guys on the boat told me they had bought me. They headed to Thailand. Later we were asked for a ransom of 50,000 taka ($643) to return to Bangladesh, as security was tight on the Thai coast."
Bangladesh’s foreign ministry said it will form a six-member team, selected from the Bangladeshi embassy in Yangon and its consulate office in Sittwe, Rakhine’s capital, to get the migrants back home, Global New Light of Myanmar, a state-run newspaper reported on Monday. Myanmar and Bangladesh also decided to protect the shared border.
Myanmar has an estimated 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims, who live in poor conditions in the western part of the country. Nearly 140,000 Rohingyas were reportedly displaced in 2012, following deadly clashes with Buddhists in the region. Last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that over 3,000 Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi migrants are stranded at sea.
Meanwhile, Indonesian officials said Tuesday that the Bangladeshi migrants, who landed on its shores, were also expected to be sent back soon. Mirza Iskandar, investigation and enforcement director at the national immigration office in Jakarta, said, according to the Straits Times, that the Bangladeshi government agreed to take back all its citizens. He added that Indonesia "will do its best to help with the process."
Armiftahul Arifin, head of the local prosecutors' office in Indonesia, who is assisting the Bangladeshi migrants with the registration process, said, according to the Straits Times, "We are yet to be informed of the detailed plan - whether the Bangladesh Embassy will bring in a chartered plane or use commercial flights, which means transporting them in batches of between 30 and 50," adding that the migrants would be sent to Medan and North Sumatra before their trip back home.
The Bangladeshi government has, however, not reportedly commented about any plans to take back its migrants in Indonesia.