Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Bangladesh Ready To Begin Rohingya Repatriation Process

Chaos and confusion as Rohingya refugee repatriations set to begin Rohingya repatriation plan has no safety guarantee, sources say
Steven Clarke | 15 November, 2018, 15:26

The few who are reportedly willing to return are 450 Hindu families who are on the list of 2,260 refugees who have been vetted and approved by Myanmar to come back.

"They (the Myanmar authorities) are going to keep people in camps", he said.

On Sunday, the Myanmar government said it was ready to welcome returning refugees.

He and other community leaders said that an increase in the number of Bangladeshi soldiers at the camps in recent days had stoked anxiety. The authorities have built two repatriation centers where the refugees will remain until their return to Myanmar.

About 300,000 Rohingya had already fled Myanmar in earlier waves of communal violence.

The announcement came after about 1,000 Rohingya demonstrated at a camp in Bangladesh against returning to Myanmar, from where hundreds of thousands fled army-led violence a year ago.

This has led to panic among the refugees, many of whom experienced violence in Myanmar, lost family members or saw their homes burned.

On Tuesday, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, warned that forcing the first batch of about 2,200 Rohingya living in refugee camps in Bangladesh to return to ground zero of mass violence against the minority Muslim group would be a "clear violation" of core global legal principles.

"I haven't met a single refugee telling me "I would like to go right now", Melzer said.

"We will go back only if the security of our life and livelihood is ensured", he said.

The BBC's Yogita Limaye who is in one of the refugee camps says there is increased security presence with military trucks and busses as well as government officials.

At the Jamtoli refugee camp, 25-year-old Setara said she and her two children, age 4 and 7, were on a repatriation list, but her parents were not.

"Examples of things they're trying to take away from each other include iconography, coins, everything from skin lotion to wrestling", Prasse-Freeman said. "I think they might kill us if we go there".

"Nothing the Myanmar government has said or done suggests that the Rohingya will be safe upon return", Frelick said.

Some said their families have fled from their shanties in the refugee camps to avoid being sent back.

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But it was unclear whether the repatriation would begin smoothly amid reports that numerous refugees on the initial list have fled.

Prasse-Freeman said Arakan state, which the Rohingya call home, was not always a conflict zone. They will kill the rest of my family. "How can we go there?"

The Myanmar government have assured the worldwide community the Rohingya will then be housed in new homes built in Maungdaw, one of the three areas the Rohingya had lived before the crackdown, though they will not be allowed to travel outside of the township.

Ethnic Rakhine villagers told me on a recent trip they believed all Rohingya were illegal and risky immigrants. "They are fully prepared", he said. "No one knows what the situation really is in Myanmar, in Rakhine state".

So while the Myanmar government talks about building temporary shelters, offering medical care and sufficient food rations for Rohingyas who return, many global observers insist the root causes of the violence and hate-filled attitudes need to be properly tackled before Rohingyas can return home and live with safety and dignity.

Given the reluctance of officials in Myanmar to admit to any systematic violence committed by the military, which ruled the country for almost half a century and still wields considerable power, worldwide human rights groups have expressed concern about the future well-being of any potential returnees.

Frightened and angry Rohingya refugees on Thursday forced Bangladesh to call off efforts to start sending back some of the hundreds of thousands of the stateless Muslims to Myanmar, casting fresh doubt on a disputed repatriation programme.

Despite assurances from Myanmar, human rights activists said Thursday the conditions are not yet safe for Rohingya refugees to go back.

The Rohingya fear that upon return, they will be in placed in detention camps.

Vice-President Mike Pence criticised Myanmar's military for the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in a meeting with the country's leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday and said he was keen to hear that those responsible for the violence would be held accountable.

Rohingya Muslims use their cellphones as they sit on a hillock overlooking Balukhali refugee camp, in Bangladesh, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018.

Myanmar says its operations in Rakhine were a legitimate response to attacks on security forces by Rohingya insurgents in August previous year. A United Nations fact-finding mission found "sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw [armed forces] on charges of genocide".

Myanmar's army has previously cleared itself of wrongdoing and has rejected the UN's allegations.

"The violence and persecution by military and vigilantes that resulted in driving 700,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh is without excuse", he said.

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