First repatriation of Rohingyas in Myanmar questioned

Tuesday, 17 Apr, 2018

Rahim said the group became angry when Win Myat Aye said the Rohingya refugees must accept national verification cards to be provided by Myanmar in which they state they are migrants from Bangladesh.

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.

"It (the claim) is nothing but a farce", Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said in a statement.

On Friday, the United Nations refugee agency and Bangladesh finalized a memorandum of understanding that describes the repatriation process as "safe, voluntary and dignified ... in line with worldwide standards".

"This is a deception", Rohingya Blogger, a watchdog website run by Rohingya activists, said in a statement. The card is a form of ID, but does not mean citizenship - something Rohingya have been denied in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they've faced persecution for decades.

The post did not mention plans for further returnees expected in the near future.

However, the UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, said in a statement on Sunday that it had no direct knowledge of the case and was not consulted or involved in this reported return. The site called the repatriation a "staged event". "Bangladesh is no way part of it".

Andrea Giorgetta from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) blasted the repatriation announcement as "a public relations exercise in an attempt to deflect attention from the need for accountability for crimes committed in Rakhine State".

Though there has been no sign of repatriation yet, Myanmar claims work is proceeding steadily in this regard and necessary steps are in place to start the repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh to Myanmar. This is the first report of repatriation since approximately 700,000 Rohingya left Myanmar for Bangladesh beginning in August of previous year.

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.

During his tour to Bangladesh last week, Win said repatriation of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas would begin "very soon" as "we have overcome many difficulties". It has systematically dismantled their legal rights and access to basic services in Rakhine, a state where many have lived for generations.