Yangon : Myanmar’s government said it has repatriated the first family of Rohingya out of some 700,000 refugees who fled to Bangladesh to escape a brutal military campaign, despite UN warnings that a safe return is not yet possible.
The stateless Muslim minrity has been massing in squalid Bangladesh camps since the Myanmar army launched a ruthless crackdown on the community in northern Rakhine state last August.
The UN says the campaign amounts to ethnic cleansing, but Myanmar has denied the charge, saying its troops targeted Rohingya militants.
Bangladesh and Myanmar were supposed to begin repatriation in January but the plan has been repeatedly delayed as both sides blame the other for a lack of preparation.
According to a Myanmar government statement posted late on Saturday, one family of Rohingya refugees became the first to return earlier in the day.
“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. 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.
Photos posted alongside the statement showed one man, two women, a young girl and a boy receiving the ID cards and getting health checks.
It said that the family had been sent to stay “temporarily” with relatives in Maungdaw town.
Conditions ‘not yet conducive’ for Rohingyas to return home to Myanmar: UN agency
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.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and the Government of Bangladesh finalized a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Geneva on April 13 relating to voluntary returns of Rohingya refugees once conditions in Myanmar are conducive.”UNHCR considers that conditions in Myanmar are not yet conducive for returns to be safe, dignified, and sustainable. The responsibility for creating such conditions remains with the Myanmar authorities, and these must go beyond the preparation of physical infrastructure to facilitate logistical arrangements,” the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement.The comments come amid the repatriation of the first Rohingya family back to Myanmar.
“The five members of a family came back to Taungpyoletwei town repatriation camp in Rakhine state this morning,” according to the government’s Information Committee.
The agreement, signed by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque, established a framework of cooperation between UNHCR and Bangladesh on the safe, voluntary, and dignified returns of refugees in line with international standards.
More than 670,000 Rohingya fled violence in Myanmar since last August, joining an estimated 200,000 Rohingya who have sought shelter in Bangladesh, arriving in waves over the past decades.
The agency said that in the absence of a tripartite agreement between UNHCR, Myanmar and Bangladesh, The UN agency has continued to engage with governments of both the countries in negotiations on two separate agreements meant to ensure that any future returns are conducted in line with the international standards of voluntariness, safety and dignity.
According to UNHCR, the refugees have said that before considering return to Myanmar, they would need to see concrete progress in relation to their legal status and citizenship, security, and their ability to enjoy basic rights at home in Rakhine state. UNHCR has continued to call on the Government of Myanmar to take concrete measures to address the root causes of displacement.
The UNHCR also urged the Myanmar Government to immediately provide full and unhindered access to refugees’ places of origin in Rakhine, which would enable it to assess the situation and provide information to refugees about conditions in the places of origin, as well as to monitor any possible future return and reintegration of refugees.
“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.
“Such concrete measures would help demonstrate to refugees that the Government of Myanmar is committed to a sustainable solution,” it said.
In Myanmar, together with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UNHCR is in ongoing discussions with the government on a tripartite agreement to outline the scope of cooperation between these agencies and the Myanmar Government in Rakhine State.
The agreement would aim to set forth a framework for refugees’ voluntary repatriation in line with international standards, aim to create conditions that are conducive to eventual voluntary repatriation, and provide humanitarian and development assistance for all people of Rakhine State. PTI