Monday, January 21, 2019 | ePaper

No guarantee for safety

Rohingya return delayed

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Staff Reporter :
The repatriation of Rohingya Muslims scheduled to begin from today will not commence as the process is not completed - a 'lot of preparation' remains undone, sources in Dhaka and Cox's Bazar involved in the process, said yesterday. The arrangement is wide apart.
Myanmar says it has set up border arrangement to receive refugees; resettlement camps in Rakhine State to house them and also set up medical team to take care of the returnees. But Rohingyas said appropriate arrangement is entirely absent which include government guarantee for safety return to their village homes and property, citizenship rights, access utility services and right to livelihood. They are not ready to accept bondage again in confinement without right to free movement.
A Rohingya refugee told media yesterday at a Cox's Bazar camp that they know they are burden on Bangladesh. They want to go back but many of them also returned home in 2012 after fleeing massacre only to face bullets again and escaped to Bangladesh. He said they want safety and security; only bare promise is not enough to ally fear.
The UN special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee visited different Rohingya refugee camps in Cox's Bazar on Saturday and Sunday in presence of officials from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other foreign aid institutions and talked with some refugees in those camps. She came at a time when the repatriation was scheduled to begin and wanted to know whether the right situation has been created for repatriation. Refugees told her that they are ready to return but with guarantee for safety in all aspects.  
In recent days refugees have gathered by the hundreds chanting slogans and holding banners demanding citizenship and guarantees of security before they return to Rakhine.
Five senior Rohingya leaders met with UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee in Cox's Bazar late Sunday and handed her a list of their demands before repatriation would be considered.
"We do not want to go back home because we have not got our rights," community leader Abdur Rahim, who met the visiting UN rapporteur said during her tour of the camps.
Meanwhile repatriation is facing a situation when Myanmar can claim they are ready to accept the refugees but if they don't go Myanmar has nothing to do. But by all intents they are apparently playing deceitful game avoiding to creating the proper environment and commitment to make life easy for the returnees. 
Bangladesh is going to be an unwilling hostage of the situation. It wants quick repatriation to get rid of the burden but it cannot also push refugees to be killed again. It is a big humanitarian crisis.
Bangladesh's Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam announced Monday that there was much more work to be done and therefore repatriation is not starting.
"We have not made the preparations required to send back people from tomorrow.  Kalam told AFP. Since August last year around 688,000 Muslim Rohingyas have escaped ethnic cleansing and taken shelter to Bangladesh.
They were sheltered here in ill-equipped and over-crowded camps but back home they left behind harrowing tales of rape, murder and torture by Myanmar military and Buddhist vigilantes.
The two countries agreed earlier in November 23 to start the repatriation and also signed a physical arrangement document in January 16. But looking at any meaningful arrangement, things are not even closer to open the repatriation. 
Meanwhile, rights groups and the UN have said any repatriation must be voluntary, with recent reports that many Rohingya settlements have been burned to the ground in Rakhine State and the situation is violent. Rohingyas are still keeping coming when Myanmar says the situation is back to normal.
The UNHCR said it must have a role in the repatriation and any repatriation must be voluntary and with full safety. Bangladesh has sought to assure the international community that only those wishing to go back to their homelands in Rakhine State would be sent to Myanmar, and the process would essentially involve the UN's refugee agency. Without completing many necessary steps, we cannot send these people back all of a sudden. This work is ongoing," Abul Kalam said.
He gave no revised date for start of the repatriation, but said two sites near the border had been identified for possible transit sites.

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