First Rohingyas return to Burma despite United Nations fears

by Joy Montgomery April 17, 2018, 18:14
First Rohingyas return to Burma despite United Nations fears

Myanmar's government said it has repatriated the first family of Rohingya refugees, among the 700,000 who fled a brutal crackdown, but the move was slammed by rights groups as a publicity stunt which ignored warnings over the security of returnees.

The stateless minority has been massing in squalid refugee camps across the border in Bangladesh since the Myanmar army launched a ruthless campaign against the community in northern Rakhine state last August.

The UN says the campaign amounts to ethnic cleansing, but Myanmar has denied the charge, saying its troops targeted Rohingya militants.

The official Information Committee published a photograph of the single unidentified family on its Facebook page on Saturday: a man, two women and a boy and girl, who were reported to have crossed from Bangladesh that morning.

In an effort to address the crisis, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a deal in November to repatriate the Rohingya over the course of two years, beginning in January.

Earlier this month, it sentenced seven soldiers to prison terms for involvement in the killing of 10 Rohingya men.

A Rohingya leader, Abdur Rahim, said at least eight rape victims were among those who met with him.

A member of a Rohingya family is issued with her ID card.

Rohingya who have been repatriated in the past after previous refugee exoduses have been forced to live in camps in Myanmar.

"The repatriated Rohingya family did not reach Bangladesh as they used to live on no-man's land", he said, responding to Burma's claim on Saturday that it had repatriated a family of five people who it said had been residing in Bangladesh.

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Fears of confrontation between Russian Federation and the West have been running high since U.S. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., "that innocent people - we don't add any civilian deaths".

The post did not mention plans for further returnees expected in the near future.

The Rohingya are reviled by many in the Buddhist-majority country, where they are branded as illegal "Bengali" immigrants from Bangladesh, despite their long roots in Rakhine state.

The United Nations has warned that a mass repatriation of Rohingya would be premature.

Waves of violence have forced Rohingya out of Myanmar over the past several years, with more than 200,000 Rohingya refugees already in Bangladesh before last year's exodus.

"Before proceeding with the repatriation of Rohingya, the Myanmar government must recognise and guarantee all their fundamental human rights", he told the news agency.

On Friday, UNHCR said that the "conditions in Myanmar are not yet conducive for returns to be safe, dignified and sustainable", adding that "the responsibility for creating such conditions remains with the Myanmar authorities, and these must go beyond the preparation of physical infrastructure to facilitate logistical arrangements". "Only sustained global engagement can ensure the rights of the Rohingyas so that they could return to their homes and live there with peace and dignity".

Boats with Rohingya from parts of Rakhine state have continued leaving Myanmar in recent months.

Ursula Mueller, the a United Nations senior humanitarian official, warned last week that there "critical issues of freedom of movement" that Myanmar's government needs to address before beginning repatriation, AFP reported.

"We also appreciate Indian government's initiative for rehabilitation projects in Myanmar for constructing prefabricated houses along with China and Japan, for the Rohingyas", he added.


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