Myanmar and Bangladesh have signed a deal that will allow hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to return home.
Over 600,000 Rohingya people have fled across the border from Myanmar to Bangladesh since August, following a violent military crackdown.
But a statement released by the Bangladesh foreign ministry on Thursday said the displaced people would be able to begin to return within two months.
Aid agencies, however, have highlighted concerns over the forcible return of the Rohingya, unless their safety can be guaranteed.
Human rights groups have raised concerns about the details of the return, including where the Rohingya will be settled after many of their homes were destroyed. There is also the issue, say campaigners, of how their safety will be guaranteed given current anti-Muslim tensions in Myanmar.
The conditions surrounding their return remain unclear, and many Rohingya people are terrified of returning.
Human Rights Watch said the abuses amount to crimes against humanity, while others, including British Prime Minister Theresa May, described the events as “ethnic cleansing.”
The UN estimates that around 1,000 people have been killed in the violence, which it described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” but the Myanmar military puts the figure at closer to 400 people.
The two sides are working on the deal, which was signed in Myanmar’s capital, Nay Pyi Taw. Few details have been released, but it is reported that the deal would begin within two months.
Bangledeshi politician AH Mahmood Ali said it was a “first step,” while senior Myanmar official Myint Kyaing said it was ready to receive the Rohingya “as soon as possible.”
“[They] will take back [Rohingya],” said Ali in a press statement. “Now we have to start working.”
Intense international scrutiny is putting pressure on both countries involved in the deal. Bangladesh wants to show its population that the hundreds of thousands Rohingya it is hosting are not in the country permanently, reported the BBC.
Meanwhile Myanmar, and particularly its de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has faced condemnation for the reaction to the crisis, and is now responding to international calls for a resolution.
Violence erupted in Myanmar on Aug. 25, when Rohingya militants attacked security posts in the country, and triggered a military crackdown against the Rohingya people — a minority in the predominantly Buddhist nation, who are denied their right to citizenship.
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