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17 April 2018, 06:11 | Leigh Flowers
First Rohingya refugees repatriated to Myanmar despite UN safety fears
Myanmar's government said it repatriated on Saturday the first family of Rohingya out of some 700,000 refugees who fled to Bangladesh to escape a brutal military campaign, despite United Nations warnings that a safe return is not yet possible.
According to UN officials, almost 700,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh from Rakhine to escape a military crackdown since August, amid reports of murder, rape and arson by Myanmar troops and Buddhist vigilantes which the United Nations has likened to "ethnic cleansing".
Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed a repatriation plan in January but its start has been repeatedly delayed as both sides blame the other for lack of preparation.
"The five members of a family. came back to Taungpyoletwei town repatriation camp in Rakhine state this morning, " the post said.
It reported Saturday's returnees were provided the with National Verification Cards, a form of ID that falls short of citizenship and has been rejected by Rohingya leaders.
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 global standards of voluntariness, safety and dignity.
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"This is in no way a repatriation, rather it is propaganda", Kalam told Reuters.
The Rohingya Blogger site said that when the plan did not work, the family returned to Myanmar, where they were portrayed as "returnees".
Since August past year, more than half a million Rohingya have undertaken perilous journeys to Bangladesh to flee persecution and violence in Myanmar.
A Facebook post on the official page of Myanmar's Information Committee appears to show the family getting health checks and receiving packages of rice, mosquito netting, and blankets.
"More than 1.1 million Rohingya people have crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar's Rakhine state".
Although the Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for many generations, most people in Myanmar consider them unwanted immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh and refer to them as "Bengalis, " a term the Rohingya consider derogatory.
They have been targeted by waves of violence, systematically stripped of their citizenship and forced to live in apartheid-like conditions with severely restricted access to health care, education and other basic services.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees also said in a statement on Sunday that it had no direct knowledge of the case and was not asked to be involved in process.
A newly arrived Rohingya refugee mother feeds her daughter at a transit camp in Nayaprar refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.
Many Rohingya refugees say they fear returning to a country where they saw their relatives murdered by soldiers and vigilantes who drove them from their homes. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) estimated that at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the first month of the crackdown alone.
"Before proceeding with the repatriation of Rohingya, the Myanmar government must recognise and guarantee all their fundamental human rights", he told the news agency.
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