Myanmar announces repatriation of first Rohingya family

2018-04-15 11:02
A Myanmar immigration official hands over identification documents to an unidentified Rohingya woman belonging to a five-member Rohingya family at the Taungpyoletwei town repatriation camp in Maungdaw near the Bangladesh border. (Myanmar News Agency, AFP)

A Myanmar immigration official hands over identification documents to an unidentified Rohingya woman belonging to a five-member Rohingya family at the Taungpyoletwei town repatriation camp in Maungdaw near the Bangladesh border. (Myanmar News Agency, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Myanmar's government said it has repatriated the first family of Rohingya refugees, among 700 000 who fled a brutal crackdown, but the move was slammed by rights groups as a publicity stunt which ignored warnings over the security of returnees.

The stateless Muslim minority has been massing in squalid refugee camps across the border in Bangladesh since the Myanmar army launched a ruthless campaign against the community in northern Rakhine state last August.

The UN says the operation amounts to ethnic cleansing, but Myanmar has denied the charge, saying its troops targeted Rohingya militants.

Bangladesh and Myanmar vowed 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 refugees became the first to be processed in newly built reception centres 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.

ID cards

Bangladesh's refugee commissioner, Mohammad Abul Kalam, told AFP the family had been living in a camp erected on a patch of "no man's land" between the two countries.

Several thousand Rohingya have been living in the zone since August, crammed into a cluster of tents beyond a barbed-wire fence which roughly demarcates the border zone between the two countries.

"They were not under our jurisdiction, therefore, we cannot confirm whether there would be more people waiting to go back (to Myanmar)," he told AFP.

A Rohingya community leader in the camp also confirmed the family's return.

According to the Myanmar statement, immigration authorities 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 after "finishing the repatriation process".

Myanmar officials could not be reached for more details.

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

'PR exercise' 

The move comes despite warnings from the UN and other rights groups that a mass repatriation of Rohingya would be premature, as Myanmar has yet to address the systematic legal discrimination and persecution the minority has faced for decades.

The Rohingya are reviled by many in the Buddhist-majority country, where they are branded as illegal "Bengali" immigrants from Bangladesh, despite their long roots in Rakhine state.

They have been targeted by waves of violence, systematically stripped of their citizenship and forced to live in apartheid-like conditions with severely restricted access to health care, education and other basic services.

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".

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

The UN maintains that much work needs to be done before repatriation can be safe and dignified.

Myanmar must address "critical issues of freedom of movement, social cohesion, livelihoods, and access to services", Ursula Mueller, secretary general for the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told AFP earlier this month after a visit to Rakhine.

Many Rohingya refugees say they fear returning to a country where they saw their relatives murdered by soldiers and Buddhist vigilantes who drove them from their homes.

Doctors Without Borders says the violence claimed at least 6 700 Rohingya lives in the first month alone.

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


Read more on:    myanmar

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.