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Dhaka, Naypyidaw agree to complete Rohingya refugee return in two years amid global concern

Staff Correspondent

Amid global concern over the repatriation climate and the safety of the returnees, Bangladesh and Myanmar have signed the text of the Physical Arrangement stipulating that the Rohingya return would be completed “preferably within two years from the commencement of repatriation”. Verification and repatriation will be based on considering the family as a unit.
The refugee crisis erupted after the alleged Rohingya insurgent attacks on security posts on August 25 in Rakhine triggered a fierce military response that the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing. Some 650,000 people fled the violence. The military denies ethnic cleansing, saying its security forces had mounted legitimate counter-insurgency clearance operations.
“The repatriation would be completed preferably within two years from the commencement of repatriation,” said Bangladesh foreign ministry in a statement following the first joint working group meeting (JWG) in Naypyitaw on January 15-16. The meeting agreed that the verification and the return of the Rohingya will be based on the family as a unit, and finalised the “verification form”. The two countries formed the JWG on December 19, following a repatriation deal signed on November 23 last year amid global outcry over the military crackdown that the UN and the US described as ethnic cleansing.
Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque and Myamnar’s Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar U Myint Thu led their respective sides during the meeting.
Statements from both the Myanmar and Bangladesh Foreign Ministries read that Bangladesh would set up five transit camps on its side of the border. Those camps would send Rohingyas to two reception centers in Myanmar. The repatriation process would start fron January 23, the statements said.
Myanmar said it would build a transit camp that can house 30,000 returnees while the Bangladesh statement said: “Myanmar has reiterated its commitment to stop (the) outflow of Myanmar residents to Bangladesh”.
Myanmar stressed the need for both sides to take preventive measures against possible Rohingya attacks and said it gave Dhaka a list with the names of 1,000 alleged militants.
The UN Refugee Agency, responding to the plan, raised a concern about forcibly repatriating over 650,000 Rohingya who fled to neighboring Bangladesh after a conflict erupted in western Rakhine state in August.
The agreement is guided by the earlier understanding and principles signed “Arrangement on return of displaced person from Rakhine State” and the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the JWG. Besides, the two countries also finalized the form for verification.
Modalities for repatriation of orphans and children born out of unwarranted incidence have been incorporated in the arrangement.
The Bangladesh statement called for repatriating orphans and “children born out of unwarranted incidence”, a reference to cases of rape resulting in pregnancy, said a Bangladesh foreign ministry official who declined to be identified.
Myanmar would shelter the returnees in a temporary accommodation at the Hla Pho Khung and expeditiously rebuild the houses for the returnees to move in there.
Myanmar would consider resettling the people staying at the zero line on a priority basis.

Verification process
Both countries agreed to form two Technical Working Group, one on verification and the other on return.
The Physical Arrangement has included modalities of the relevant aspects of the return.
Bangladesh Ambassador to Myanmar Sufiur Rahman said: “We have signed a very positive treaty. After several discussions, Myanmar has agreed to complete the repatriation process preferably within two years from the day it commences.
“We have proposed to repatriate 15,000 Rohingyas every week but they [Myanmar] did not agree to it.”
He added: “They [Myanmar] have taken some preparations for the Rohingyas. They have agreed to take back 300 Rohingyas per day. Some 1,500 Rohingyas will be sent back in a week.”
The Bangladesh ambassador said the number of Rohingyas being repatriated to Myanmar every week will be increased after three months, reports the Bangla Tribune.
Sufiur said: “The repatriation will be based on considering the family as a unit and the form will contain the information of the entire family, which will make the process easier.”
He said: “Myanmar will take initiative to ensure that Rohingyas do not enter Bangladesh again and as a part of the imitative, they will take back 7,000 Rohingyas who are stuck in the border areas.
Regarding the list of Rohingyas, the ambassador said: “It will be handed over as soon as possible.”
UN concerned about the deal:
A spokesperson from the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said on January 16 that the Rohingya people should only return voluntarily when they feel it is safe to do so.
“Major challenges have to be overcome,” UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic told a Geneva news briefing. “These include ensuring they are told about the situation in their areas of origin … and are consulted on their wishes, that their safety is ensured.”
Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay said last week the returnees could apply for citizenship “after they pass the verification process”.
Myint Kyaing, permanent secretary at Myanmar’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, said this month Myanmar would begin processing at least 150 people a day through each of the two camps by January 23.
Left out of the talks were the fears and concerns of the refugees themselves, “as if they are an inert mass of people who will go where and when they are told,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters in an email.
“Where are considerations for protection of the Rohingya from Myanmar security forces who months ago were raping and killing them? How come the discussions ignore the deprivation of rights of people held in indefinite detention, which is what these so-called “temporary” accommodations may become?,” Robertson asked.
UK select body cautions against Rohingya return
The potential return of 100,000 Rohingya to Myanmar without a clear understanding of their legal status, interim and/or final destination, or even whether they have volunteered for the return trip, is a matter of grave concern, says the International Development Committee, a select body of the House of Commons in the UK.
In a report published on Monday, the Committee says plans to begin repatriation for the displaced Rohingya people from Bangladesh to Burma are well underway without evidence of consultation or involvement with the community.
However, MPs on the Committee agreed that the required conditions for the safe return of the Rohingya to Burma [UK recognizes Myanmar as Burma] must include their safety, security, and access to fundamental human rights.
Previous episodes of displacement and return of the Rohingya, and other ethnic minorities, in Burma over the last 20 years “do not inspire confidence,” says the report.
While recognising the challenges and ambitions behind each strand of the British government’s “five-point plan” for the Rohingya and Burma, the report welcomes the concept.
However, the Committee says that returning the Rohingya to live in Burmese-run internment camps with the threat of future deprivation and violence is unacceptable.
Members were also critical of the UK’s reluctance to commit its full specialist team on sexual violence to assist with reported cases of gender-based violence.

Comment

Staff Correspondent

Amid global concern over the repatriation climate and the safety of the returnees, Bangladesh and Myanmar have signed the text of the Physical Arrangement stipulating that the Rohingya return would be completed “preferably within two years from the commencement of repatriation”. Verification and repatriation will be based on considering the family as a unit.
The refugee crisis erupted after the alleged Rohingya insurgent attacks on security posts on August 25 in Rakhine triggered a fierce military response that the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing. Some 650,000 people fled the violence. The military denies ethnic cleansing, saying its security forces had mounted legitimate counter-insurgency clearance operations.
“The repatriation would be completed preferably within two years from the commencement of repatriation,” said Bangladesh foreign ministry in a statement following the first joint working group meeting (JWG) in Naypyitaw on January 15-16. The meeting agreed that the verification and the return of the Rohingya will be based on the family as a unit, and finalised the “verification form”. The two countries formed the JWG on December 19, following a repatriation deal signed on November 23 last year amid global outcry over the military crackdown that the UN and the US described as ethnic cleansing.
Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque and Myamnar’s Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar U Myint Thu led their respective sides during the meeting.
Statements from both the Myanmar and Bangladesh Foreign Ministries read that Bangladesh would set up five transit camps on its side of the border. Those camps would send Rohingyas to two reception centers in Myanmar. The repatriation process would start fron January 23, the statements said.
Myanmar said it would build a transit camp that can house 30,000 returnees while the Bangladesh statement said: “Myanmar has reiterated its commitment to stop (the) outflow of Myanmar residents to Bangladesh”.
Myanmar stressed the need for both sides to take preventive measures against possible Rohingya attacks and said it gave Dhaka a list with the names of 1,000 alleged militants.
The UN Refugee Agency, responding to the plan, raised a concern about forcibly repatriating over 650,000 Rohingya who fled to neighboring Bangladesh after a conflict erupted in western Rakhine state in August.
The agreement is guided by the earlier understanding and principles signed “Arrangement on return of displaced person from Rakhine State” and the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the JWG. Besides, the two countries also finalized the form for verification.
Modalities for repatriation of orphans and children born out of unwarranted incidence have been incorporated in the arrangement.
The Bangladesh statement called for repatriating orphans and “children born out of unwarranted incidence”, a reference to cases of rape resulting in pregnancy, said a Bangladesh foreign ministry official who declined to be identified.
Myanmar would shelter the returnees in a temporary accommodation at the Hla Pho Khung and expeditiously rebuild the houses for the returnees to move in there.
Myanmar would consider resettling the people staying at the zero line on a priority basis.

Verification process
Both countries agreed to form two Technical Working Group, one on verification and the other on return.
The Physical Arrangement has included modalities of the relevant aspects of the return.
Bangladesh Ambassador to Myanmar Sufiur Rahman said: “We have signed a very positive treaty. After several discussions, Myanmar has agreed to complete the repatriation process preferably within two years from the day it commences.
“We have proposed to repatriate 15,000 Rohingyas every week but they [Myanmar] did not agree to it.”
He added: “They [Myanmar] have taken some preparations for the Rohingyas. They have agreed to take back 300 Rohingyas per day. Some 1,500 Rohingyas will be sent back in a week.”
The Bangladesh ambassador said the number of Rohingyas being repatriated to Myanmar every week will be increased after three months, reports the Bangla Tribune.
Sufiur said: “The repatriation will be based on considering the family as a unit and the form will contain the information of the entire family, which will make the process easier.”
He said: “Myanmar will take initiative to ensure that Rohingyas do not enter Bangladesh again and as a part of the imitative, they will take back 7,000 Rohingyas who are stuck in the border areas.
Regarding the list of Rohingyas, the ambassador said: “It will be handed over as soon as possible.”
UN concerned about the deal:
A spokesperson from the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said on January 16 that the Rohingya people should only return voluntarily when they feel it is safe to do so.
“Major challenges have to be overcome,” UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic told a Geneva news briefing. “These include ensuring they are told about the situation in their areas of origin … and are consulted on their wishes, that their safety is ensured.”
Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay said last week the returnees could apply for citizenship “after they pass the verification process”.
Myint Kyaing, permanent secretary at Myanmar’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, said this month Myanmar would begin processing at least 150 people a day through each of the two camps by January 23.
Left out of the talks were the fears and concerns of the refugees themselves, “as if they are an inert mass of people who will go where and when they are told,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters in an email.
“Where are considerations for protection of the Rohingya from Myanmar security forces who months ago were raping and killing them? How come the discussions ignore the deprivation of rights of people held in indefinite detention, which is what these so-called “temporary” accommodations may become?,” Robertson asked.
UK select body cautions against Rohingya return
The potential return of 100,000 Rohingya to Myanmar without a clear understanding of their legal status, interim and/or final destination, or even whether they have volunteered for the return trip, is a matter of grave concern, says the International Development Committee, a select body of the House of Commons in the UK.
In a report published on Monday, the Committee says plans to begin repatriation for the displaced Rohingya people from Bangladesh to Burma are well underway without evidence of consultation or involvement with the community.
However, MPs on the Committee agreed that the required conditions for the safe return of the Rohingya to Burma [UK recognizes Myanmar as Burma] must include their safety, security, and access to fundamental human rights.
Previous episodes of displacement and return of the Rohingya, and other ethnic minorities, in Burma over the last 20 years “do not inspire confidence,” says the report.
While recognising the challenges and ambitions behind each strand of the British government’s “five-point plan” for the Rohingya and Burma, the report welcomes the concept.
However, the Committee says that returning the Rohingya to live in Burmese-run internment camps with the threat of future deprivation and violence is unacceptable.
Members were also critical of the UK’s reluctance to commit its full specialist team on sexual violence to assist with reported cases of gender-based violence.


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DNCC polls stayed by court order

Special Correspondent

The High Court (HC) today stayed the Dhaka North City Corporation by-polls, which was scheduled to be held on February 26, for three months.
A High Court division bench comprising Justice Naima Haider and Justice Zafar Ahmed passed the order after holding hearing yesterday on two writ petitions filed against the election.
The court also issued a rule asking the Election Commission to explain as to why the High Court shall not declare illegal the schedule for the mayoral by polls and elections in newly added 36 wards.
“The High Court has stayed the election schedule and circular issued in this regard by the Election Commission for three months. The court also issued a rule asking as to why the schedule shall not be declared beyond the legal purview,” said Barrister Ahsan Habib Bhuiyan, who moved a writ before the court in this regard.
The Election Commission on January 9 formally announced the schedule for the by-polls. Chairmen of Bhatara Union Parishad and Beraid Union Parishad, which have been included in DNCC as wards, had filed two writ petitions against the election schedule.

Failure of EC
In an immediate reaction, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir terms the High Court stay order on Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) as complete failure of the Election Commission (EC). ).
Fakhrul said, “We also think that this move is politically motivated. The EC should have been taken all preparations earlier.”
“If there is actually any lacking on the ground the writ was filed and the HC issued rule then its responsibility goes on to the EC. The same writ was filed an year ago but what have the EC done since then. If there was a problem then they should have fixed it. However, EC took no such action.”
Mentioning that the government wished to stop the polls, Fakhrul said government is benefited by creating scope to postpone the the election.

Kader denies govt role
Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader today said the government has no role regarding the court’s stay order on the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) by-polls.
“Awami League doesn’t believe in dirty politics...The government has no role over the stay order regarding the DNCC by-polls,” he said at a press conference at AL president’s political office in city’s Dhanmondi.
Awami League organized the press conference to declare the name AL councilor candidates for DNCC and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) polls.
Quader said, “We called the press conference to declare the names of councilor candidates. But now we stop declaring the names as doing so might be contempt of court.”

HC orders to hold DUCSU polls in six months
Earlier on Tuesday, The High Court (HC) ordered Dhaka University (DU) authorities to take steps for holding Dhaka University Central Students’ Union (DUCSU) within the next six months.
A High Court division bench comprising Justice Syed Muhammad Dastagir Husain and Justice Md Ataur Rahman Khan passed the order after holding hearing on a rule issued earlier in this regard.
Twenty-five students of DU in 2012 filed a writ with the High Court while Advocate Manjil Morshed moved the writ in this regard.
The High Court concluded its hearing on the matter on Monday and finally issued the rule asking why the inaction of DU in holding the election shall not be declared illegal.

Comment

Special Correspondent

The High Court (HC) today stayed the Dhaka North City Corporation by-polls, which was scheduled to be held on February 26, for three months.
A High Court division bench comprising Justice Naima Haider and Justice Zafar Ahmed passed the order after holding hearing yesterday on two writ petitions filed against the election.
The court also issued a rule asking the Election Commission to explain as to why the High Court shall not declare illegal the schedule for the mayoral by polls and elections in newly added 36 wards.
“The High Court has stayed the election schedule and circular issued in this regard by the Election Commission for three months. The court also issued a rule asking as to why the schedule shall not be declared beyond the legal purview,” said Barrister Ahsan Habib Bhuiyan, who moved a writ before the court in this regard.
The Election Commission on January 9 formally announced the schedule for the by-polls. Chairmen of Bhatara Union Parishad and Beraid Union Parishad, which have been included in DNCC as wards, had filed two writ petitions against the election schedule.

Failure of EC
In an immediate reaction, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir terms the High Court stay order on Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) as complete failure of the Election Commission (EC). ).
Fakhrul said, “We also think that this move is politically motivated. The EC should have been taken all preparations earlier.”
“If there is actually any lacking on the ground the writ was filed and the HC issued rule then its responsibility goes on to the EC. The same writ was filed an year ago but what have the EC done since then. If there was a problem then they should have fixed it. However, EC took no such action.”
Mentioning that the government wished to stop the polls, Fakhrul said government is benefited by creating scope to postpone the the election.

Kader denies govt role
Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader today said the government has no role regarding the court’s stay order on the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) by-polls.
“Awami League doesn’t believe in dirty politics...The government has no role over the stay order regarding the DNCC by-polls,” he said at a press conference at AL president’s political office in city’s Dhanmondi.
Awami League organized the press conference to declare the name AL councilor candidates for DNCC and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) polls.
Quader said, “We called the press conference to declare the names of councilor candidates. But now we stop declaring the names as doing so might be contempt of court.”

HC orders to hold DUCSU polls in six months
Earlier on Tuesday, The High Court (HC) ordered Dhaka University (DU) authorities to take steps for holding Dhaka University Central Students’ Union (DUCSU) within the next six months.
A High Court division bench comprising Justice Syed Muhammad Dastagir Husain and Justice Md Ataur Rahman Khan passed the order after holding hearing on a rule issued earlier in this regard.
Twenty-five students of DU in 2012 filed a writ with the High Court while Advocate Manjil Morshed moved the writ in this regard.
The High Court concluded its hearing on the matter on Monday and finally issued the rule asking why the inaction of DU in holding the election shall not be declared illegal.


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Japan grants Myanmar $3 million to repatriate Rohingya Muslims

Special Correspomndent

Japan’s government will grant Myanmar $3 million to assist in repatriating Rohingya Muslims to Rakhine state. A military crackdown has seen about 655,000 Rohingya Muslims flee to Bangladesh, with at least 6,700 deaths.
Japan Außenminister Taro Kono in Myanmar mit Aung San Suu Kyi
Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono on Friday urged Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi to safely repatriate Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence in Rakhine state, as the Japanese government pledged 330 million Japanese yen ($2.5 million; $3 million) to help facilitate the process.
During a meeting with Suu Kyi, Kono asked for her government to allow humanitarian and media access to the affected area, the resettlement of returned refugees and the implementation of recommendations made by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
He also said Japan planned to give further aid of $20 million to improve humanitarian conditions and development in Rakhine state.
Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an agreement on the repatriation of Rohingya refugees on November 23. Myanmar said it would start the process by January 23, but the exact numbers and extent of the repatriation is still unclear.
The military crackdown in the northern state of Rakhine has prompted about 655,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to bordering Bangladesh and claimed at least 6,700 lives since August.

Japan to monitor repatriation
“We have decided to provide the aid in response to the agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh to represent an international message of support so that the repatriation can be carried out promptly,” said Japanese Foreign Ministry official Shinobu Yamaguchi in a statement, stressing that Japan would monitor the repatriation.
“The money will be paid in a timely manner based on the progress of repatriation,” he said.
Read more: Myanmar court charges Reuters journalists under Official Secrets Act
The ministry said the grant was to “provide humanitarian assistance for rebuilding the living conditions, including provision of electricity generators, water purifiers, fuel and plastic containers” on the sites for resettlement of displaced Rohingya Muslims.
“This assistance is to contribute to the return and resettlement of the displaced persons assumed to reach up to the thousands or tens of thousands.”

EU adopts  new programme
The European Union (EU) has adopted a new programme of five million euro to support the Rohingyas in Bangladesh strengthening its response to the crisis.
“The programme aims to support the implementation of the bilateral repatriation agreement between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh, which was signed on November 23, 2017,” a European Commission (EC) release, received here today, said.
It said the new initiative will support the identification and registration of Rohingyas and facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance while ensuring better protection of particularly vulnerable individuals.
The EU said that the initiative is a demonstration of its commitment to support the creation of all necessary conditions for the eventual voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingyas who fled Myanmar to Bangladesh to escape the violence against them.
The EU last year provided 51 million euro to support the Rohingyas in Bangladesh, the release added.

Comment

Special Correspomndent

Japan’s government will grant Myanmar $3 million to assist in repatriating Rohingya Muslims to Rakhine state. A military crackdown has seen about 655,000 Rohingya Muslims flee to Bangladesh, with at least 6,700 deaths.
Japan Außenminister Taro Kono in Myanmar mit Aung San Suu Kyi
Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono on Friday urged Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi to safely repatriate Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence in Rakhine state, as the Japanese government pledged 330 million Japanese yen ($2.5 million; $3 million) to help facilitate the process.
During a meeting with Suu Kyi, Kono asked for her government to allow humanitarian and media access to the affected area, the resettlement of returned refugees and the implementation of recommendations made by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
He also said Japan planned to give further aid of $20 million to improve humanitarian conditions and development in Rakhine state.
Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an agreement on the repatriation of Rohingya refugees on November 23. Myanmar said it would start the process by January 23, but the exact numbers and extent of the repatriation is still unclear.
The military crackdown in the northern state of Rakhine has prompted about 655,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to bordering Bangladesh and claimed at least 6,700 lives since August.

Japan to monitor repatriation
“We have decided to provide the aid in response to the agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh to represent an international message of support so that the repatriation can be carried out promptly,” said Japanese Foreign Ministry official Shinobu Yamaguchi in a statement, stressing that Japan would monitor the repatriation.
“The money will be paid in a timely manner based on the progress of repatriation,” he said.
Read more: Myanmar court charges Reuters journalists under Official Secrets Act
The ministry said the grant was to “provide humanitarian assistance for rebuilding the living conditions, including provision of electricity generators, water purifiers, fuel and plastic containers” on the sites for resettlement of displaced Rohingya Muslims.
“This assistance is to contribute to the return and resettlement of the displaced persons assumed to reach up to the thousands or tens of thousands.”

EU adopts  new programme
The European Union (EU) has adopted a new programme of five million euro to support the Rohingyas in Bangladesh strengthening its response to the crisis.
“The programme aims to support the implementation of the bilateral repatriation agreement between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh, which was signed on November 23, 2017,” a European Commission (EC) release, received here today, said.
It said the new initiative will support the identification and registration of Rohingyas and facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance while ensuring better protection of particularly vulnerable individuals.
The EU said that the initiative is a demonstration of its commitment to support the creation of all necessary conditions for the eventual voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingyas who fled Myanmar to Bangladesh to escape the violence against them.
The EU last year provided 51 million euro to support the Rohingyas in Bangladesh, the release added.


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Rohingya repatriation “illegal and premature”: Amnesty International

Special Correspondent

Responding to an announcement by the Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry that it will aim to repatriate all Rohingya refugees within two years, the Amnesty International termed the decision illegal and premature.
James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, inn a statement on January 16 pointed out that “With memories of rape, killing and torture still fresh in the minds of Rohingya refugees, plans for their return to Myanmar are alarmingly premature. The timeframe announced today was made without any consultation with the Rohingya themselves, and offers no assurances that people will be able to return voluntarily.
“The most recent campaign of violence against the Rohingya was preceded by years of entrenched discrimination and abuse and for most of the 650,000 refugees who fled Myanmar last year, returning so soon will be a terrifying prospect.
“The obfuscation and denials of the Myanmar authorities give no reason to hope that the rights of returning Rohingya would be protected, or that the reasons for their original flight no longer exist.
“The Rohingya have an absolute right to return to and reside in Myanmar, but there must be no rush to return people to a system of apartheid. Any forcible returns would be a violation of international law.
“Rohingya refugees are entitled to continue to seek asylum in Bangladesh and the government should focus on exploring all options to ensure continued international protection for this community.
“Returns cannot be safe or dignified until there is a fundamental change in Myanmar, including accountability for crimes against humanity and an end to the apartheid system.”
Myanmar and Bangladesh have agreed that the repatriation process will commence on 23 January 2018.

Comment

Special Correspondent

Responding to an announcement by the Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry that it will aim to repatriate all Rohingya refugees within two years, the Amnesty International termed the decision illegal and premature.
James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, inn a statement on January 16 pointed out that “With memories of rape, killing and torture still fresh in the minds of Rohingya refugees, plans for their return to Myanmar are alarmingly premature. The timeframe announced today was made without any consultation with the Rohingya themselves, and offers no assurances that people will be able to return voluntarily.
“The most recent campaign of violence against the Rohingya was preceded by years of entrenched discrimination and abuse and for most of the 650,000 refugees who fled Myanmar last year, returning so soon will be a terrifying prospect.
“The obfuscation and denials of the Myanmar authorities give no reason to hope that the rights of returning Rohingya would be protected, or that the reasons for their original flight no longer exist.
“The Rohingya have an absolute right to return to and reside in Myanmar, but there must be no rush to return people to a system of apartheid. Any forcible returns would be a violation of international law.
“Rohingya refugees are entitled to continue to seek asylum in Bangladesh and the government should focus on exploring all options to ensure continued international protection for this community.
“Returns cannot be safe or dignified until there is a fundamental change in Myanmar, including accountability for crimes against humanity and an end to the apartheid system.”
Myanmar and Bangladesh have agreed that the repatriation process will commence on 23 January 2018.


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