Myanmar Says Over 1200 Refugees to Return from Bangladesh Next Week

Myanmar Says Over 1200 Refugees to Return from Bangladesh Next Week

Kerry Wise
January 17, 2018

The pact, which was decided during meetings between Bangladesh's Foreign Secretary Mohammad Shahidul Haque and Myanmar Permanent Secretary Myint Thu in Naypyidaw on Monday and Tuesday, will come into effect from January 23.

"The Physical Arrangement stipulates that the repatriation would be completed preferably within 02 (two) years from the commencement of repatriation".

United Nations refugee agency says the repatriation deal must guarantee protection of Rohingya upon return to Myanmar. Many have questions whether the Rohingya would return to Myanmar under the current circumstances, and whether Myanmar would accept them and allow them to live freely.

Those camps would send Rohingyas to two reception centres in Myanmar.

More than 650,000 ethnic Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since August, when Myanmar's military launched a brutal crackdown in Rakhine state after a militant group attacked police posts. They are generally called "Bengalis", a reference to the belief that they migrated illegally from Bangladesh.

The refugees, living in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district, have told human rights organizations of numerous atrocities committed by security forces, including the burning down of homes and entire villages, random shootings and rapes.

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The meeting agreed that the verification and the return of the Rohingya will be based on the family as a unit, and finalised the "verification form". "I won't feel safe if I go back to Myanmar", said Rashid Ahmed, 33. Secondly, they have to give back our lands. "We can not fail them again", said Stephen Twigg MP, also the chair of the committee.

"Hundreds of thousands of children are already living in horrific conditions, and they will face an even greater risk of disease, flooding, landslides and further displacement", Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF representative in Bangladesh, said in a statement. Central authorities and the Buddhist population consider Rohingya to be undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh.

Displaced Rohingya now held in vast refugee camps in Bangladesh have expressed extreme reluctance to return.

Myanmar officials plan to start the repatriation process next Tuesday.

"Returns can not be safe or dignified until there is a fundamental change in Myanmar, including accountability for crimes against humanity and an end to the apartheid system", the rights group said.

The 124-acre Hla Po Khaung camp will accommodate about 30,000 people in 625 buildings, with at least 100 buildings to be completed by the end of the month. Last May, Cyclone Mora barreled through the region, destroying approximately one-quarter of the makeshift shelters in Rohingya refugee camps and causing widespread damage.