No show for Rohingya repatriation to Myanmar

Munir Uz Zaman  AFP

The first batch of Rohingyas was scheduled to return on November 15 a year ago but it was halted amid the unwillingness of Rohingyas to go back for lack of a congenial environment in Rakhine.

Kalam expressed disappointment that repatriation had stalled again and said Bangladesh had "done our best to help the Rohingya return to their homes".

Buddhist-majority Myanmar has refused to recognize Rohingya as citizens, even though many of their families have lived there for generations, and insists on calling them Bengalis, suggesting they are migrants from Bangladesh.

In reaction to another report by the mission earlier this month about the alleged corporate enablers of the military, Myanmar's foreign ministry said that in establishing the fact-finding mission, the UN Human Rights Council "exceeded its mandate and contravened the terms and practices of International Law". Some INGOs and NGOs are instigating them (Rohingyas), he told a small group of reporters at his office.

"This is a continuous process", Mohammad Abdul Kalam, a Bangladeshi refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, told news agency Reuters.

Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas and a lot of them entered the country since August 25, 2017.

According to UNHCR, Bangladesh has more than 9 lakh Rohingya refugees out of which close to 7 lakh 50 thousand refugees arrived after August 2017 fleeing Rakhine province of Myanmar amid violence and military crackdown.

Some left the camp for fear they would be forced to return to Myanmar, they said.

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"Building confidence is essential", it said, calling for "more predictable and effective access to refugees' places of origin and potential areas of return in Rakhine state".

The failed repatriation efforts come as a United Nations report revealed the extent to which the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, systematically used sexual violence, including the gang rape of men and women, as part of a strategy to intimidate the Rohingya during "clearance operations" in 2016 and 2017.

"Many Rohingya have said that they would like to return to Myanmar so long as they don't suffer the same abuse, indignities, and atrocities they have endured in the past", Ganguly said.

In New York, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday that repatriations had to be "voluntary". Thousands of refugees protested and chanted "We won't go back" and "We want justice", forcing authorities to halt the process. The two countries signed a repatriation deal on November 23, 2017, but there has been little progress.

The UNHCR said in a statement Thursday that many Rohingya interviewed actually want to go home if the conditions are met.

Nevertheless, Ramzan Begum said her mother-in-law had fled their home in the refugee camp Wednesday night and had not returned on Thursday.

"Myanmar has yet to address the systematic persecution and violence against the Rohingya, so refugees have every reason to fear for their safety if they return". Myanmar has rejected the report and any suggestion its forces did anything wrong.

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