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Returning Rohingya: An Issue of ‘Grave Concern’

By Rohingya Vision TV | 16th January 2018

MPs have raised “grave concern” about the plight of thousands of Rohingya people being returned to Myanmar. The Commons International Development Committee said it was “clear” that rape and sexual violence remain weapons of war used by the Burmese military. And it warned of the “chilling prospect” of the area becoming a “powder keg of radicalisation”.

More than 650,000 have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since a military crackdown in Arakan (Rakhine) state in late August.

The crisis has been called ethnic cleansing by the UN and the US.

Myanmar’s military has denied targeting civilians, and insists it is fighting only Rohingya militants.

A top Myanmar official said Monday that a camp to house Rohingya Muslim and Hindu refugees who return from Bangladesh will be ready by its promised deadline next week.

Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an agreement in November to repatriate Rohingya and set up a working group last month to oversee the repatriation of people who had fled violence in the northern part of Rakhine state in western Myanmar.

“We are planning ahead to be able accept the returnees from next week and we are sure that this will be done on time,” Win Myat Aye said.

The U.N. refugee agency said it is not involved in the process but is willing to play a “constructive role” in the process if allowed, specifically in registering the refugees and helping determining whether they are returning to Myanmar voluntarily.

“Our involvement in the process and our full access to areas of return in Myanmar can help to build confidence for all concerned, including the refugees,” said Vivian Tan, UNHCR’s senior regional communication officer.

In the November agreement, Myanmar’s civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, pledged to take measures to halt the outflow of Rohingya to Bangladesh and restore normalcy in the region. The U.N and rights groups have urged the Myanmar government to ensure the safe and voluntary return of the Rohingya refugees.

Japan’s foreign minister on a visit to Myanmar last week urged Suu Kyi’s government to guarantee the safe and voluntary return of the refugees.

State-run media in Myanmar reported Monday the 124-acre Hla Po Khaung camp will accommodate about 30,000 people in 625 buildings and that at least 100 buildings are to be completed by the end of the month. It would be the first camp built in the repatriation process.

Talks were held yesterday to “settle issues” over the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, Bangladeshi officials said, as doubts linger over how many of the 655,000 Rohingya who fled violence will return.

Under pressure, Myanmar has vowed to repatriate refugees driven into Bangladesh by an army crackdown last year if they can verify they belong in Arakan (Rakhine) state. But aid agencies question how many Rohingya will be able to prove their residence, given their hurried flight and complexity of their status in Myanmar.

Most Rohingya refugees approached in the Bangladeshi camps say they will not return to a state where their villages have been torched and where they allege atrocities by the army and Moghs (Rakhine).

Officials from the two countries met in Naypyitaw yesterday to “settle issues” related to repatriation, two Bangladeshi officials said.

The deal applies to Rohingya who fled Myanmar in two major outbreaks of violence since October 2016. It does not cover an estimated 200,000 Rohingya who were in Bangladesh prior to that date.

Last month, Bangladeshi officials said a list of 100,000 names was sent to Myanmar for the first round of repatriation. Myanmar has yet to publicly endorse the list or even confirm it has received the names.

But the country is on track for the Jan 23 deadline, the Global New Light of Myanmar reported yesterday, adding that building work is ongoing at the 50ha Hla Po Khaung “temporary camp” in Arakan’s (Rakhine) Maungdaw district. Eventually, the site “will accommodate about 30,000 people in its 625 buildings” before they are resettled permanently.

Source: Agencies