Sat, Apr 14, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Myanmar says repatriation is imminent

ROHINGYA:Bangladesh, as well as Myanmar, repeated their commitment to send about 750,000 refugees back home, but Burmese officials have approved only 600 listed names


Rohingya refugees will be allowed to return to Myanmar “as soon as possible,” Burmese Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Win Myat Aye said on Thursday, despite a stillborn repatriation process and UN warnings that the safety of returnees could not be guaranteed.

Win Myat Aye made the comments in Dhaka after visiting one of the camps in Bangladesh struggling to provide for some of the 1 million Rohingya Muslims to have fled Myanmar.

“We can overcome many difficulties we are facing,” he told reporters after a meeting with Bangladeshi officials. “I am very sure we can start repatriation process as soon as possible.”

Myanmar has repeatedly said that it is ready for repatriation, but no date has been given for the return, and skepticism is rife in Bangladesh and elsewhere that a stalled refugee return plan would ever be implemented.

Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed in November last year to repatriate about 750,000 Rohingya by the end of the year, but the deal has been delayed indefinitely, with each side blaming the other for a lack of preparation.

Win Myat Aye met with Rohingya leaders at the giant Kutupalong camp near Cox’s Bazar, where a group of refugees tried to stage a protest during his visit.

Wednesday was the first time that a Myanmar Cabinet member visited the overcrowded camps since a military crackdown that began in August last year in response to a spate of insurgent attacks, forcing about 700,000 of the Muslim minority to flee across the border.

They joined about 300,000 refugees already living there after previous bouts of violence.

Myanmar has approved fewer than 600 names from a list of more than 8,000 refugees provided by Bangladesh.

Last month, Bangladeshi Minister of Finance Abul Maal Abdul Muhith said it was unlikely that the refugees would ever return, accusing Myanmar of deliberately obstructing the process.

UN agencies have warned that any repatriation deal could place returning Rohingya in further danger and that conditions on the ground are not conducive for a voluntary, safe and dignified return.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Assistant Secretary-General Ursula Mueller visited northern Rakhine this month and said that Myanmar still needs to address “critical issues of freedom of movement, social cohesion, livelihoods and access to services.”

Bangladeshi Minister of Foreign Affairs Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali, who led repatriation talks for his country, on Thursday told reporters that the two sides were committed to implementing the refugee deal.

Many refugees have said that they fear a repeat of the persecution that forced them off their lands if they go back under the repatriation deal and being placed in temporary transit camps for an unknown period of time as they await new housing.

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