Published: Mon, April 16, 2018
Medical | By

First Rohingya family repatriated in Myanmar despite United Nations concerns

First Rohingya family repatriated in Myanmar despite United Nations concerns

Myanmar has accepted what appears to be the first five among some 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape military-led violence against the minority group, even though the United Nations says it's not yet safe for them to return home.

"Their safe return is important not only on the humanitarian ground, but also there are some serious security issues", he told an global convention on the Rohingya Genocide in New Delhi on Saturday.

Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Syed Muazzem Ali has called for the safe return of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar to have an early solution to the humanitarian crisis as there are security issues.

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

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. At least 6,000 Rohingya families have been living in the no man's land since that month.

Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to a repatriation deal back in November. The most recent one, carrying 70 Rohingya, reportedly set out from Myanmar toward Malaysia on Thursday, the same day the family of five returned to Rakhine.

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".

The statement did not say if any more repatriations are being planned.

"Since the family did not enter Bangladesh, their return can not be considered repatriation".

Talking to The Daily Star, the official categorically said the repatriation has not started at all. Bangladesh has given Myanmar a list of 8,000 refugees to begin the process.

NVCs are part of the government's ongoing effort to register Rohingya which falls short of offering them citizenship.

According to UN officials, almost 700,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh from Rakhine to escape a military crackdown since August, amid reports of murder, rape and arson by Myanmar troops and Buddhist vigilantes which the United Nations has likened to "ethnic cleansing".

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.

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

No further information has been given about other possible repatriations. The latest confirmed departure took place on Thursday.

Most Burmese consider the Rohingya as unwanted immigrants from Bangladesh, and the army refers to them as "Bengalis".

Asif Munier said Myanmar has time and again blamed Bangladesh when the latter is bearing the brunt of the Rohingya crisis, something the country is in no way responsible for.

Munier also said Bangladesh has also signed a deal with the UNHCR on voluntary repatriation of the Rohingyas, while the UN Refugee Agency is negotiating another deal with Myanmar.

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