First Rohingya family return home despite United Nations safety warning

16 April, 2018, 14:33 | Author: Orlando Hughes
  • Scepticism as Myanmar announces repatriation of first Rohingya family

Myanmar on Saturday repatriated what it said was the first Rohingya family from almost 700,000 refugees who had fled to Bangladesh, after months of fraught talks with Dhaka and amid United Nations warnings that the country is not ready for their return.

Shortly after welcoming the Rohingyas early yesterday, Myanmar government in a statement, posted on the official Facebook page of its Information Committee, said, "The five members of a family ... came back to Taungpyoletwei town repatriation camp in Rakhine State this morning". They were said to be staying with relatives after being given "rice, mosquito netting, blankets, T-shirts, sarongs and kitchen utensils".

About Monday, " Bangladesh's house minister, Asaduzzaman Khan, said Myanmar's claim that your family have been "repatriated" had been fictitious, noting that your family had never arrived at Bangladeshi territory.

In February, Bangladesh released a list of more than 8,000 Rohingya for repatriation.

"The widespread threat and use of sexual violence was integral to this strategy, serving to humiliate, terrorize and collectively punish the Rohingya community, as a calculated tool to force them to flee their homelands and prevent their return", Guterres said.

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

No further information has been given about other possible repatriations.

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".

According to the Rohingya Blogger, however, the individuals in the photos are the family members of the administrator of Taung Pyo Latya, the designated entry point for returning refugees.

Myanmar set up two reception centres and what it says is a temporary camp near the border in Rakhine to receive the first arrivals.

The statement said authorities determined whether they had lived in Myanmar and provided them with a national verification card.

Burma repatriates first Rohingya family despite UN warnings

"We don't know when [repatriation] will start. There is no way to call it repatriation ... under no criteria it's repatriation ... its nothing but a hoax".

Some 700,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to escape a brutal military campaign that began last August.

A Rohingya family's identity being verified by authorities in Myanmar.

The rest of the refugees have settled in sprawling camps in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district.

Myanmar has repeatedly said it is ready for repatriation, but no date has been given for the return, and scepticism is rife in Bangladesh and elsewhere that a stalled refugee return plan will ever be implemented.

The family later got national verification cards, becoming the first family, of five, to return to Myanmar.

Again, Myanmar officials blamed Bangladesh for that, saying the forms were not properly filled up.

On November 23, Dhaka and Naypyidaw signed an agreement to begin repatriating the refugees from January this year, but this process stalled over technical and ground-level complexities.

"They are doing it again and again", he said.

The move came despite repeated warnings from the United Nations and other rights groups that a mass repatriation of Rohingya would be premature, as Myanmar has yet to address the systematic legal discrimination and persecution the minority has faced for decades.

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

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