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Myanmar Says It's Ready to Begin Rohingya Repatriation

Myanmar Says It's Ready to Begin Rohingya Repatriation

Tuesday, 23 January 2018 05:55 AM

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar officials said Tuesday they are ready to begin a gradual repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh despite a delay announced by Bangladesh authorities.

Under an agreement between the two countries, a two-year repatriation process was to begin Tuesday. But officials in Bangladesh on Monday said a number of issues remain unresolved, in particular concerns that refugees were being forced to return.

Myanmar Union Minister Thaung Tun told reporters on Tuesday that his country is "ready to receive those who will be coming across the border."

More than 680,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh to escape a brutal crackdown by Myanmar's military that began in August. The Buddhist-majority country's security forces have been accused of atrocities against Rohingya including killing, rape and arson. The United Nations and the U.S. have described the army crackdown as "ethnic cleansing."

Thaung Tun said Myanmar is currently prepared to receive 300 returnees a day and "the number could increase based on the progress of the first batch that will be coming across."

Myanmar Social Welfare Minister Win Myat Aye said Myanmar has provided Bangladesh with a list of 700 Rohingya and 400 Hindu refugees who have been verified as eligible for repatriation. Only refugees with identity documents — which most Rohingya lack — will be allowed back into Myanmar.

The two countries have signed an agreement to begin sending people home in "safety, security and dignity," but rights groups have expressed concern about the status of Rohingya going back to villages they fled only months ago in terror. According to the U.N. refugee agency and other rights groups, Rohingya are still fleeing across the border to Bangladesh, although the numbers are smaller than in previous months.

"As of today, the necessary safeguards for potential returnees are absent, and there are continued restrictions on access for aid agencies, the media and other independent observers," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said in Geneva on Tuesday.

Rohingya are generally viewed in Myanmar as having migrated illegally from Bangladesh, although many families have lived in Myanmar for generations, and they have been denied citizenship, freedom of movement and other basic rights.

"How can we go back to Myanmar without anyone guaranteeing our security," said Alam, a Rohingya in the Bulakhali refugee camp in Bangladesh. "If we would be given homes in our villages that were burned, then we will go back."

Though a total of more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims are living in refugee camps in Bangladesh, international aid workers, local officials and the refugees themselves say preparations for repatriation are far from complete. Myanmar authorities, however, say they are ready to begin.

"No matter what, from our side, Myanmar is ready to start the process, but Bangladesh may have difficulties, causing a delay in sending refugees back," said Win Myat Aye, Myanmar's social welfare minister.

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Myanmar officials said Tuesday they are ready to begin a gradual repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh despite a delay announced by Bangladesh authorities.Under an agreement between the two countries, a two-year repatriation process was to begin Tuesday. But...
AS,Myanmar,Rohingya
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2018-55-23
Tuesday, 23 January 2018 05:55 AM
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