Dozens of Rohingya refugees have returned: Myanmar govt

58 refugees are back after finding it was 'not tenable' to live in Bangladeshi refugee camps

YANGON • Dozens of Rohingya Muslims who fled to neighbouring Bangladesh have returned voluntarily and will be sent to a transit centre pending resettlement, the Myanmar government said yesterday.

A total of 58 Rohingya refugees have crossed back into Myanmar after they could "no longer find it tenable" to live in Bangladeshi refugee camps, said a statement from the office of Myanmar's de facto leader, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, that was published in state media yesterday.

The refugees were detained for failing to follow proper repatriation procedures.

Until a decision is made to pardon them and allow them to resettle in Myanmar, they would be temporarily housed in a transit camp, the statement said.

Ms Suu Kyi's spokesman, Mr Zaw Htay, said the refugees entered Myanmar in different stages over the last four months.

The government did not provide details about them, and Bangladeshi authorities said they were unaware of any details about the refugees.

Bangladesh's refugee relief and rehabilitation commissioner, Mr Mohammad Abul Kalam, said: "We haven't heard of any such incidents of refugees returning to Rakhine through their own volition or under their own arrangement from the camps."

  • 700k

    Number of Rohingya that fled Myanmar after an army crackdown began last August in Rakhine.

    58

    Number of refugees who have crossed back into Myanmar in stages over the last four months.

About 700,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar - a mainly Buddhist nation - after a violent army crackdown began last August in the western state of Rakhine. The United States and United Nations have described it as ethnic cleansing.

While critics have questioned its sincerity, Myanmar has said it is ready to take the refugees back.

It has traded accusations with Bangladesh over who is responsible for the delay in implementing a repatriation deal.

The Rohingya, a long-persecuted stateless minority, are reluctant to return without guarantees of basic rights and protections, including the right to return to their old villages instead of transit camps.

The UN has said conditions in Rakhine are not ripe for repatriation. "The government of Myanmar is busy telling the world that it is ready to receive Rohingya returnees while, at the same time, its forces are continuing to drive them into Bangladesh," said UN assistant secretary-general for human rights Andrew Gilmour in March.

He said: "Safe, dignified and sustainable returns are, of course, impossible under current conditions."

The refugees will be the first to be sent to a giant transit camp on the Myanmar side of the Bangladeshi border, established as part of the stalled repatriation deal reached last year.

The Rohingya in Myanmar are branded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh despite their long roots in Rakhine state.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2018, with the headline 'Dozens of Rohingya refugees have returned: Myanmar govt'. Print Edition | Subscribe