Tue, Apr 17, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Bangladesh rejects Myanmar’s claim of repatriations

‘FARCE’:Dhaka said it was not involved in any so-called repatriation of a Rohingya family, while a refugee expert called it a PR stunt by Myanmar

AP, DHAKA

Rohingya refugees look for their belongings in New Delhi yesterday, following a fire that broke out at their camp early on Sunday that left about 200 people homeless.

Photo: AFP

Bangladesh yesterday rejected a claim by Myanmar that the Buddhist-majority nation had repatriated the first five from about 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled to the neighboring country to escape military-led violence against the minority group.

A government statement on Saturday said that five members of a family had returned to western Rakhine state from the border area near Bangladesh.

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

The statement said authorities determined whether the family had lived in Myanmar and provided them with a national verification card.

The card is a form of ID, but does not mean citizenship — something Rohingya have been denied in Myanmar, where they have faced persecution for decades.

The statement did not say whether any more repatriations were being planned.

Bangladesh has given Myanmar a list of more than 8,000 refugees to begin the repatriations, but there have been delays due to a complicated verification process.

Bangladeshi Minister of Home Affairs Asaduzzaman Khan said that Myanmar’s claim that the family had been “repatriated” was false, adding that the family had never reached Bangladeshi territory.

Khan said Myanmar’s move was “nothing but a farce.”

“I hope Myanmar will take all the Rohingya families back within the shortest possible time,” he said.

Bangladeshi Refuggee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Abul Kalam said the Rohingya family involved had never crossed the border.

“By no definition can this be called repatriation,” he said by telephone from Cox’s Bazar. “No repatriation has taken place. Bangladesh is no way part of it.”

Cox’s Bazar is a district in Bangladesh where camps have been set up to shelter the Rohingya refugees.

Asif Munier, an independent refugee expert who had handled the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh for years as part of the UN, said Myanmar’s claim was a public relations stunt.

“They are doing it again and again,” he said. “Bangladesh’s government and the international community must ask Myanmar for an explanation for this move. While there is a bilateral process going on and international agencies are involved, such a move by Myanmar is again very unfortunate and unexpected.”

Burmese Minister of Social Welfare Win Myat Aye, who is leading the repatriation process, yesterday said that Myanmar had given the family the necessary documents.

“The five family members who re-entered Myanmar the other day were people who stayed along the border line between Myanmar and Bangladesh,” he said. “As they were repatriated, Myanmar officials, including from immigration, had verified them and gave them the paperwork they needed.”

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