Burma repatriates first Rohingya family despite UN warnings
Rohingya refugees will be allowed to return to Myanmar "as soon as possible", a minister said, despite a stillborn repatriation process and United Nations warnings that the safety of returnees could not be guaranteed.
More than 670,000 members of the Muslim minority Rohingya community fled violence in Myanmar since August 2017, joining an estimated 200,000 Rohingya who have sought shelter in Bangladesh, arriving in waves over the past decades.
Myanmar has strongly denied that allegation, saying the army waged a legitimate operation against insurgent Rohingya militants who had attacked more than two dozen police posts and an army base in August.
In this April 14, 2018, photo provided by Myanmar Government Information Committee, Myanmar immigration officials examine documents and photographs with a Rohingya family of five at a receiving center in Taung Pyo, Letwe, northern Rakhine state.
The statement said authorities determined whether they had lived in Myanmar and provided them with a national verification card.
The family had been sent to stay "temporarily" with relatives in Maungdaw town after "finishing the repatriation process", the statement added.
The post did not mention plans for further returnees expected in the near future.
Although the Rohingya have lived in Burma for many generations, most Burmese consider them unwanted immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh and refer to them as "Bengalis", a term the Rohingya consider derogatory.
Doctors Without Borders says the violence claimed at least 6,700 Rohingya lives in the first month alone.
Myanmar authorities have since bulldozed over numerous charred villages, raising alarm from rights groups who say they are erasing evidence of atrocities and obscuring the Rohingya's ties to the country.
"I hope, Myanmar will repatriate all the families within the possible shortest time", the home minister said.
"Before proceeding with the repatriation of Rohingya, the Myanmar government must recognize and guarantee all their fundamental human rights", he said.
Last week, Myanmar's social welfare minister, Win Myat Aye, met with about 40 Rohingya refugees at the Kutupalong camp in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh for more than an hour, sometimes exchanging heated words, the Associated Press reported. Rahim said the group presented 13 demands for the government to meet for their return to Myanmar.
The agency said that in the absence of a tripartite agreement between UNHCR, Myanmar and Bangladesh, The UN agency has continued to engage with governments of both the countries in negotiations on two separate agreements meant to ensure that any future returns are conducted in line with the worldwide standards of voluntariness, safety and dignity.
In an effort to address the crisis, Bangladesh and Burma signed a deal in November to repatriate the Rohingya over the course of two years, beginning in January.
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