Myanmar takes back 1 Rohingya family despite United Nations concerns

Maricruz Casares
Abril 17, 2018

The United Nations and Bangladesh have questioned Myanmar's claim of repatriating the first Rohingya refugees as concerns mount for the safety of returnees.

Abul Kalam, the Bangladeshi government's Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, said a family of five who were in the Konarpara area in no man's land between the two countries, had reentered Myanmar territory and had been taken to the reception centre set up by Myanmar.

In a statement on Saturday, Myanmar said it had repatriated the first Rohingya family from refugees who have fled to Bangladesh.

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

He further said that the paperwork meant a verification form of ID, which does not mean citizenship, something Rohingyas have been denied in Myanmar, where they have faced persecution for decades.

"By no definition can this be called repatriation", he said by phone from Cox's Bazar. "Bangladesh is no way part of it". Several thousand Rohingya have been living in the zone since August, crammed into a cluster of tents beyond a barbed-wire fence which roughly demarcates the border zone between the two countries.

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Bangladesh and Myanmar vowed to begin repatriation in January but the plan has been repeatedly delayed as both sides blame the other for a lack of preparation.

He also held meetings with Bangladesh Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali and the Home Minster which he described to be very fruitful in overcoming "many difficulties in the process of beginning the repatriation process of the Rohingyas". But the United Nations and rights groups say the move is dangerously premature.

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".

The army denies the allegations and casts its campaign as a legitimate response to Rohingya militant attacks on August 25 that killed about a dozen border guard police.

A prosecutor from the International Criminal Court (ICC) has recently sought jurisdiction over the "deportation" of Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh, with the aim of investigating and prosecuting those responsible.

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