Thursday, August 22, 2019

Still no happy ending in sight for the Rohingya

Plans to begin return the thousands of Rohingya who fled ethnic cleansing in Rahkine state in 2017 look likely to fail once again, with the refugees refusing to go back to Myanmar voluntarily. 

The announcement of the repatriation plans last week was met with almost universal condemnation from human rights groups, which stressed the conditions in Myanmar were still highly unsafe for the Rohingya. “Repatriations now would be dangerous and reckless,” said Matthew Smith, the chief executive of Fortify Rights.

3,000-plus Rohingya were placed on a list of refugees and approved for repatriation and so far   214 Rohingya families were interviewed in the process.

A Bangladesh refugee relief official who was present during the intention surveys, led by UNHCR, said they did not find a single family willing to return to Myanmar.

“Almost all of the 214 families we interviewed today said they would not return until their key demands are met. Rakhine is still hostile and unsafe for them, they said,” said the official.
A Rohingya camp leader, known as a majhi, said that he had not spoken to any refugees willing to go back under current conditions.

With Myanmar’s refusal to guarantee a pathway to citizenship for the Rohingya, the consensus is that all the refugees remain too fearful to go back.
One refugee on the list of 3,450 approved for return was adamant that he would not be crossing the border . “We cannot return unless there is a guarantee from the Burma government that our citizenship rights would be returned,” he said. “Burma is telling the world that it is trying its best to make the situation for the Rohingya safe so that we can return to our homes. But, the reality is it has done nothing to help us return peacefully.”
The UNHCR has been banned from visiting Rahkine state by the Myanmar government, so cannot verify the conditions the Rohingya would be returned to. There are fears that they would just be placed in newly built transit camps, which have been described as “open-air prisons”, as their Rohingya villages, which were almost all burned to the ground during the violence, have not been rebuilt.

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