BANGLADESH RE­JECTS Myan­mar's CLAIM of repa­tri­at­ing RO­HINGYA

Millennium Post - - WORLD -

DHAKA: Bangladesh on Mon­day re­jected a claim by Myan­mar that the Bud­dhist-ma­jor­ity na­tion had repa­tri­ated the first five among some 700,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lim refugees who fled to the neigh­bour­ing coun­try to es­cape mil­i­tary-led vi­o­lence against the mi­nor­ity group.

A Myan­mar gov­ern­ment state­ment said on Satur­day that five mem­bers of a fam­ily had re­turned to west­ern Rakhine state from the bor­der area. It said the fam­ily was stay­ing tem­porar­ily with rel­a­tives in Maung­daw town, the ad­min­is­tra­tive cen­tre close to the bor­der.

The state­ment said au­thor­i­ties de­ter­mined whether they 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've 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.

Bangladesh's Home Min­is­ter, Asaduz­za­man Khan, on Mon­day said Myan­mar's claim that the fam­ily had been "repa­tri­ated" was false, not­ing 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.

Bangladesh's refugee, re­lief and repa­tri­a­tion com­mis­sioner, Abul Kalam, said the Ro­hingya fam­ily in­volved had never crossed the bor­der.

"By no def­i­ni­tion can this be called repa­tri­a­tion. No repa­tri­a­tion has taken place," he said by phone from Cox's Bazar. "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.

Asif Mu­nier, an in­de­pen­dent refugee ex­pert who had han­dled the Ro­hingya cri­sis in Bangladesh for years as part of the United Na­tions, 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."

Myan­mar's se­cu­rity forces have been ac­cused of rape, killing, tor­ture and the burn­ing of the homes of Ro­hingya vil­lagers af­ter in­sur­gents at­tacked about 30 po­lice out­posts on Au­gust 25.

The United Na­tions and the United States have de­scribed the army crack­down as "eth­nic cleans­ing." About 700,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lims flooded into neigh­bour­ing Bangladesh to es­cape the vi­o­lence.

Bangladesh and Myan­mar agreed in De­cem­ber to be­gin repa­tri­at­ing them in Jan­uary, but there were con­cerns among aid work­ers and Ro­hingya that they would be forced to re­turn and face un­safe con­di­tions in Myan­mar.

On Fri­day, the UN refugee agency and Bangladesh fi­nalised a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing that said the repa­tri­a­tion process must be "safe, vol­un­tary and dig­ni­fied ... in line with in­ter­na­tional stan­dards."

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