Myanmar takes back 1 Rohingya family despite United Nations concerns

Myanmar has accepted the first five among some 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees who had fled military-led violence. The move, however, was criticised by rights groups as a publicity stunt that ignored warnings on the security of returnees.

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

In January, Myanmar and Bangladesh finalised an agreement to send back thousands of Rohingya refugees.

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

"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.

On Friday, the United Nations refugee agency and Bangladesh finalized a memorandum of understanding that describes the repatriation process as "safe, voluntary and dignified.in line with global standards".

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, the Bangladeshi Home Minister Ashaduzzaman Khan said that the claim of repatriation was "nothing but a farce", as quoted by local newspaper The Daily Star.

The UN refugee agency said in a statement that Win Myat Aye's visit was an important "confidence-building" measure between the two governments, but that conditions in Myanmar "are not yet conducive for the voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return of refugees".

It said the family was staying temporarily with relatives in Maungdaw town, the administrative centre close to the border.

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The Rohingya Blogger site said that when the plan did not work, the family returned to Myanmar, where they were portrayed as "returnees".

"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.

A Facebook post on the official page of Myanmar's Information Committee appears to show the family getting health checks and receiving packages of rice, mosquito netting, and blankets.

Although the Rohingya have lived in Burma for many generations, most Burmese consider them unwanted immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh and refer to them as "Bengalis", a term the Rohingya consider derogatory.

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.

Noting that such conditions are not present at the moment, the United Nations refugee agency urged Myanmar authorities to create them as well as to take concrete measures to address the root causes of displacement.

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.

Many of their original communities were burned to the ground in the violence that Doctors Without Borders says claimed at least 6,700 Rohingya lives in the first month alone.

NVCs are part of the government's ongoing effort to register Rohingya that falls short of offering them citizenship.


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