Repatriation scheme for Rohingya refugees being piloted among serious human rights concerns

Rohingya refugees
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A Myanmar government team arrived in Bangladesh on Thursday 25 May as part of a pilot scheme to repatriate around 1,200 Rohingya refugees in the coming weeks. However, Rohingya people have expressed major misgivings about the scheme.

The refugees have been stuck in ramshackle camps in southeastern Bangladesh since 2017. They fled there during a crackdown by the Myanmar military, which is now subject to a United Nations genocide investigation.

Rohingya: second class citizens

Bangladesh and Myanmar are looking to return around 1,100 of an estimated one million Rohingya refugees to the violence-racked state of Rakhine. However, rights organisations and Rohingya people in particular have raised concerns about the safety and living conditions of repatriated refugees.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report on 18 May that said:

Bangladesh and Myanmar are organizing returns of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar’s Rakhine State without consulting the community or addressing the grave risks to their lives and liberty

Shayna Bauchner, HRW’s Asia researcher, added:

Bangladesh is frustrated with its burden as host, but sending refugees back to the control of a ruthless Myanmar junta will just be setting the stage for the next devastating exodus.

Read on...

The team of 14 Myanmar officials arrived by boat in the Bangladeshi border town of Teknaf on Thursday morning. They made no comment to reporters, an AFP journalist there said.

Rohingya demands

“We have no permanent representative in this repatriation process,” Khin Maung, a prominent Rohingya leader, told AFP. He added that:

This repatriation process is just an eyewash. If they didn’t ensure our dignity, there is no point returning to IDPs (internally displaced people)

One refugee up for repatriation in the pilot project told AFP – on condition of anonymity – that they did not want to go back and live in Myanmar “as non-citizens and stay in IDP camps”. They said:

Our place should be given back to us, our right to live like other ethnic groups should be legally guaranteed. Otherwise we cannot believe the mass murderers.

Another refugee, Semon Ara, said:

What will we do living in IDP camps? We are citizens of Myanmar, not guests. Myanmar should give back our rights and repatriate us.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Foreign and Commonwealth Office, licensed under the Open Government Licence version 1.0 (OGL v1.0), resized to 1910*1000.

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