Despite UN warning, first Rohingya family repatriated from Bangladesh to Myanmar

Apr 17, 2018, 18:12
Despite UN warning, first Rohingya family repatriated from Bangladesh to Myanmar

An advance copy of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' report to the Security Council, obtained by AP, says global medical staff and others in Bangladesh have documented that numerous nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled from Myanmar "bear the physical and psychological scars of brutal sexual assault".

The Myanmar government's step was slammed by rights groups as a publicity stunt which ignored warnings over the security of returnees, according to AFP.

A government statement said Saturday that five members of a family returned to western Rakhine state from a refugee camp across the border in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has given Myanmar a list of more than 8,000 refugees to begin the repatriation, but it has been further delayed by a complicated verification process.

"More than 1.1 million Rohingya people have crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar's Rakhine state".

A statement posted on the official Facebook page of the government's Information Committee said "the five members of a family. came back to Taungpyoletwei town repatriation camp in Rakhine state this morning".

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Several thousand Rohingya have been living in the zone since August, crammed into a cluster of tents beyond a barbed-wire fence that roughly demarcates the border zone between the two countries.

Last week, Myanmar's social welfare minister, Win Myat Aye, met with about 40 Rohingya refugees at the Kutupalong camp in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh for more than an hour, sometimes exchanging heated words, the Associated Press reported.

"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".

But Bangladesh's home minister Asaduzzaman said the reality was that the repatriation "has not started yet", adding that the single family's return was "not a meaningful act".

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and the Government of Bangladesh finalized a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Geneva on April 13 relating to voluntary returns of Rohingya refugees once conditions in Myanmar are conducive."UNHCR considers that conditions in Myanmar are not yet conducive for returns to be safe, dignified, and sustainable".

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Photos posted alongside the statement showed a man, two women, a young girl and a boy receiving NVCs and getting health checks.

It said that the family had been sent to stay "temporarily" with relatives in Maungdaw town after "finishing the repatriation process".

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

Noting that such conditions are not present at the moment, the United Nations refugee agency urged Myanmar authorities to create them as well as to take concrete measures to address the root causes of displacement.

Muazzem Ali said at the core of the problem is the refusal of Myanmar authorities to recognize them as their citizens, although they have been living there for centuries, as their citizens.

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The statement did not say whether any more repatriations were being planned. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) estimated that at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the first month of the crackdown alone.

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