Bangladesh hands over Myanmar list of 8000 Rohingya refugees for repatriation


Rohingya refugees living in no man's land refused on Tuesday to return to Myanmar without guarantees of citizenship and security after Bangladesh and Myanmar officials met to discuss their repatriation.

About 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled army-led violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar (previously known as Burma) since August and are living in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Some, however, became stranded at the Tombru border point after Myanmar reportedly began building bunkers and threatened the refugees to leave and enter Bangladesh, which in turn denied their entry.

The minister warned the Rohingya refugees, who live in makeshift settlements, that they will face "consequences" if they do not take up a Myanmar offer to return.

Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan gave the list of 8032 refugees who have been cleared by the Bangladeshi side to his Myanmar counterpart Lt Gen Kyaw Swe, who visited Dhaka last week.

But UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi told the Security Council on Tuesday that conditions aren't right for the Muslim refugees to voluntarily return because Myanmar hasn't addressed their exclusion and denial of rights.

The government's Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission said almost 700,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh till February 11 fleeing the brutal persecution termed as "ethnic cleansing" by the UN. "We said that is the duty of Myanmar as they have not entered Bangladesh", he said.

"We've today handed over a list of 8,032 people from 1,673 families to them".

"We have asked them [Burmese authorities] to ensure their safety and security and only after that Bangladesh is ready to coordinate them", said Bangladeshi Relief and Refugee Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam.

"Once the list is finalized, we will hand it over to Myanmar for verification and start the actual repatriation process", he added.

Bangladesh reached a deal with Myanmar late past year to repatriate almost 700,000 Rohingya who have fled across the border since August to escape a brutal military crackdown. In retaliation, the military and Buddhist mobs launched "clearance operations" against Rohingya.

Myanmar's security forces have been accused of atrocities against the Rohingyas, including killing, rape and arson.

Almost 700,000 fled after last year's crackdown, which the United Nations has said amounted to ethnic cleansing.

The Rohingya have always been treated as outsiders in Myanmar, even though their families have lived in the country for generations.

They also want global organisations and media to be engaged in the repatriation process and monitor the overall situation, along with the full implementation of the recommendations made in the report of the Kofi Anan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State and the five-point proposal of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Most Burmese consider the Rohingya as unwanted immigrants from Bangladesh, and the army refers to them as "Bengalis". They are denied freedom of movement and other basic rights. United Nations refugee chief Filippo Grandi told the Security Council last week that conditions are not right for Rohingya to voluntarily return because Myanmar has not addressed the issue of denial of rights.

Joynal Abedin, spokesman for the presidential office, quoted the Bangladeshi president as responding during the meeting, "The forcefully displaced Rohingya nationals of Myanmar are a major problem for Bangladesh".