First Rohingyas return to Burma despite United Nations fears

16 April, 2018, 14:33 | Author: Angel Logan
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Now the government of Burma is reporting the return of the first Rohingya Muslims displaced by its armed forces - a total of five people out of a refugee population of 700,000.

The Myanmar government announced in a Facebook post on Saturday that a family of five had returned to the country from the border area between Bangladesh and Myanmar, where thousands of refugees are holed up.

The family members were scrutinised by immigration and health ministry officials and the social welfare, relief and resettlement ministry provided them with "materials such as rice, mosquito netting, blankets, t-shirt, longyis [Burmese sarong] and kitchen utensils", the government said.

"The reality is that the repatriation has not started yet", Bangladesh's home minister Asaduzzaman Khan told AFP on Sunday, adding that the single family's return was "not a meaningful act".

Since August a year ago, more than half a million Rohingya have undertaken perilous journeys to Bangladesh to flee persecution and violence in Myanmar.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled Myanmar's Rakhine State to refugee camps in Bangladesh following violence in August which the United Nations has labelled ethnic cleansing.

"The five members of a family came back to Taungpyoletwei town repatriation camp in Rakhine state this morning", according to the government's Information Committee.

Andrea Giorgetta of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) told AFP that Myanmar's announcement of repatriation is "a public relations exercise in an attempt to deflect attention from the need for accountability for crimes committed in Rakhine State". At least 6,000 Rohingya families have been living in the no man's land since that month.

"Before proceeding with the repatriation of Rohingya, the Myanmar government must recognize and guarantee all their fundamental human rights", he said.

It reported Saturday's returnees were provided the with National Verification Cards, a form of ID that falls short of citizenship and has been rejected by Rohingya leaders.

"They were not under our jurisdiction; therefore, we can not confirm whether there would be more people waiting to go back [to Myanmar], he said, adding that the two neighbours had not yet started the Rohingya repatriation process".

"By no definition can this be called repatriation".

The stateless Muslim minrity has been massing in squalid Bangladesh camps since the Myanmar army launched a ruthless crackdown on the community in northern Rakhine state last August.

The foreign ministry is not ready to discuss it or take it into consideration because the issue is not related with the repatriation of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas who took shelter in Bangladesh after fleeing military crackdown in Rakhine State, the official said.

Since then, over 700,000 others have crossed into Bangladesh fearing for their lives, joining more than 400,000 others who were already living in cramped makeshift camps in Cox's Bazar. Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya as an ethnic group.

Rahim said the group became angry when Win Myat Aye said the Rohingya refugees must accept national verification cards to be provided by Myanmar in which they state they are migrants from Bangladesh.

Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed in January to complete a voluntary repatriation of the refugees in two years. The latest confirmed departure took place on Thursday. Bangladesh has given Myanmar a list of 8,000 refugees to begin the process.

"We are taking care of them", he said.

Last week, the most senior United Nations official to visit Myanmar this year, assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs Ursula Mueller, said the conditions in Myanmar were not conducive to the return of the refugees.


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