First Rohingya family repatriated in Myanmar despite United Nations concerns


Some 700,000 Rohingyas have crossed over into Bangladesh since August and joined over 300,000 who had fled earlier waves of violence in Rakhine. The Myanmar government has not finished verifying the first list of 8,032 Rohingyas handed over to Myanmar on February 16.

A government statement says five members of a family returned to western Rakhine state from a refugee camp across the border in Bangladesh, reports AP. The family chose to go home despite warnings from the United Nations that conditions in the country are not right for refugees to head back.

The stateless Muslim minority has been massing in squalid refugee camps in Bangladesh since the Myanmar army launched a ruthless campaign against the community in northern Rakhine state last August.

Fleeing Rohingya refugees have reported killings, rape and arson on a large scale.

Around 6,500 Rohingyas have taken shelter in the no man's land since August 25 a year ago, when ethnic conflicts in Rakhine sparked the most rapid human exodus seen since the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

The US government and the United Nations describe the violence against the Rohingya as "ethnic cleansing".

The Rohingya exodus has created a humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh, a small, poor country that is one of the most densely populated in the world.

Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed in January to complete a voluntary repatriation of the refugees in two years. At least 6,000 Rohingya families have been living in the no man's land since that month.

Akhtar Alam and the other four of his family were scrutinized by immigration and health ministry officials and the social welfare, relief and resettlement ministry provided them with "materials such as rice, mosquito netting, blankets, T-shirt, longyis (Burmese sarong) and kitchen utensils", the statement added.

"The five members of a family... came back to Taungpyoletwei town repatriation camp in Rakhine state this morning", said a statement posted on the official Facebook page of the government's Information Committee. The card has been widely rejected by Rohingya community leaders, who say they treat life-long residents like new immigrants.

Myanmar officials could not be reached for further details and the post did not say whether any more returns were expected soon.

"They were not under our jurisdiction, therefore we can not confirm whether there would be more people waiting to go back [to Myanmar]", he told AFP.

"We look forward to India's continued support in the global arena for the early return of these forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals", he said.

"The responsibility for creating such conditions remains with the Myanmar authorities, and these must go beyond the preparation of physical infrastructure to facilitate logistical arrangements, " it said.

The UN maintains that much work needs to be done on the Myanmar side before returns can be safe and dignified.

NVCs are part of the government's ongoing effort to register Rohingyas, although it falls short of offering them citizenship.

The UN chief said the assaults were allegedly perpetrated by the Myanmar Armed Forces, known as the Tatmadaw, "at times acting in concert with local militias, in the course of military "clearance" operations in October 2016 and August 2017".

Meanwhile, boats carrying Rohingya from Rakhine state continue to leave Myanmar.

"Their safe return is important not only on the humanitarian ground, but also there are some serious security issues", he told an worldwide convention on the Rohingya Genocide in New Delhi on Saturday.