Published: Mon, April 16, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Bangladesh rejects Myanmar's claim of repatriating Rohingya Muslim refugees

Bangladesh rejects Myanmar's claim of repatriating Rohingya Muslim refugees

Myanmar says it has repatriated the first family of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh, despite a United Nations warning that it is not safe to return.

"The five members of a family... came back to Taungpyoletwei town repatriation camp in Rakhine state this morning".

It said the family was staying temporarily with relatives in Maungdaw town, the administrative centre close to the border.

"They have not been able to create a ground for trust that they will take back these people", Bangladesh's home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said on Sunday.

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

"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.

Akhtar Alam and the other four of his family were scrutinized 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 statement added.

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 return of only one family out of at least 6,000 Rohingyas, living in miserable conditions in the no man's land, is really ridiculous".

Talking to The Daily Star, the official categorically said the repatriation has not started at all. Authorities determined "whether they were once living here or not" and provided the family with National Verification Cards, a form of ID that falls short of citizenship and has been rejected by Rohingya leaders who want full rights. "There is no way to call it repatriation ... under no criteria it's repatriation ... its nothing but a hoax".

"Another practical measure would be to ease restrictions on movement for the internally displaced persons encamped in the central townships of Rakhine state, which would also help to build confidence among refugees in Bangladesh", it added.

An estimated 687,000 Rohingya - about half of Myanmar's entire population of Rohingya, a stateless Muslim ethnic minority group - have left their homes in northern Rakhine state since violence erupted in August, crossing into Bangladesh and settling in vast and squalid refugee camps.

Repeat concerns have been raised by rights groups about repatriating the thousands who fled before their safety can be guaranteed.

The website claimed after conducting its own investigation that family entered the border area, where the refugees are camped out, to try "persuade" other Rohingya families to return to Myanmar.

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

Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed in January to complete a voluntary repatriation of the refugees in two years.

Myanmar has so far approved fewer than 600 names from a list of more than 8,000 refugees provided by Bangladesh.

"We can overcome many difficulties we are facing", he told reporters after a meeting with Bangladeshi officials.

A new United Nations report puts Myanmar's armed forces on a United Nations blacklist of government and rebel groups "credibly suspected" of carrying out rapes and other acts of sexual violence in conflict for the first time.

Last month a top Bangladesh cabinet minister, A M A Muhith, said it was unlikely the refugees would ever return, accusing Myanmar of deliberately obstructing the process.

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