Published: Mon, April 16, 2018
Global Media | By Derrick Guzman

First Rohingya family repatriated to Myanmar

First Rohingya family repatriated to Myanmar

Myanmar on Saturday repatriated what it said was the first Rohingya family from almost 700,000 refugees who had fled to Bangladesh, after months of fraught talks with Dhaka and amid United Nations warnings that the country is not ready for their return.

In a statement on Saturday, the Myanmar government claimed: "Five members of a Muslim family came to the Taungpyoletwea reception centre in Rakhine state in the morning".

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.

After the move, Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said such an announcement was nothing but a farce, while rights activists and experts said the one-sided step by Myanmar is an eyewash and a public relations stunt.

In February, Bangladesh released a list of more than 8,000 Rohingya for repatriation.

First Rohingya family repatriated to Myanmar
First Rohingya family repatriated to Myanmar

"How can they claim it to be repatriation since the Rohingya family was not taken back from the camps within Bangladesh".

Myanmar has strongly denied that allegation, saying the army waged a legitimate operation against insurgent Rohingya militants who had attacked more than two dozen police posts and an army base in August. The statement also did not mention when and how many more individuals and families would be repatriated.

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

"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". 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.

"By no definition can this be called repatriation".

"Before proceeding with the repatriation of Rohingya, the Myanmar government must recognize and guarantee all their fundamental human rights", he said.

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".

Myanmar authorities have since bulldozed numerous burned villages, raising alarm from rights groups who say they are erasing evidence of atrocities and obscuring the Rohingya's ties to the country.

Cox's Bazar is a district in Bangladesh where camps have been set up to shelter the Rohingya.

He said the group became angry when Win Myat Aye demanded the refugees accept national verification cards to be provided by Myanmar in which they state they are migrants from Bangladesh. The latest confirmed departure took place on Thursday.

Myanmar officials could not be reached for more details.

"We are taking care of them", he said.

Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed in December to begin repatriating them in January, but there were concerns among aid workers and Rohingya that they would be forced to return and face unsafe conditions in Myanmar.

United Nations: The conditions in Myanmar are not yet conducive for the safe and dignified return of Rohingya refugees to their homes, the UN refugee agency said, underlining that the responsibility for creating such conditions remains with the country's authorities.

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