Bangladesh urged to halt Rohingya repatriation plan

Dhaka, Mar 31 (EFE).- Human Rights Watch Friday urged Bangladesh to suspend plans to send Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar, saying it would put their lives and liberty at grave risk.

The New York-based rights group made the push a week after a Myanmar delegation left Bangladesh after interviewing some 480 Rohingyas in refugee camps for their possible repatriation to their homeland.

Quoting Rohingyas, HRW said the refugees were “lied to, deceived, or otherwise coerced by Bangladesh administrators” into a meeting with the delegation of Myanmar junta officials as part of a “pilot repatriation” effort.

“Voluntary, safe, and dignified returns of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar are not possible while the military junta is carrying out massacres around the country and apartheid in Rakhine State,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement.

“Bangladesh authorities should stop deceiving these refugees to get them to engage with junta officials when it is clear that Rohingya will only be able to return safely when a rights-respecting rule is established.”

Around 774,000 Rohingyas arrived in Bangladesh following the Myanmar military campaign of persecution and violence in 2017, which the UN classified as an example of ethnic cleansing and possible genocide.

Dhaka claims to have collected the biometric data of around 830,000 Rohingyas, submitted to Myanmar authorities to verify their arrival. Only 58,000 were verified.

Bangladesh authorities submitted a list of 1,140 Rohingya refugees to initiate their repatriation under a pilot project, but Myanmar authorities had initially agreed to process 711.

They interviewed the remaining group members at a transit camp in Teknaf, a Bangladeshi town that borders Myanmar.

Officials in Bangladesh said there was no discussion with the Myanmar delegation that visited the country between Mar.15 and 22 over a possible date to start repatriation.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it was aware of the visit for a bilateral pilot project on possible returns but was not involved in the process.

HRW said conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State were not conducive to the voluntary, safe, or dignified return of Rohingya refugees.

The statement noted the durable return had grown ever more distant since the February 2021 military coup in Myanmar by the same generals who orchestrated the 2017 mass atrocities.

Rohingyas said they were confused about the new repatriation plan.

“The Rohingya were very happy hearing to launch the repatriation. But there is no clear message we received from anyone,” Win Naing, a Rohingya rights activist, told EFE.

“It is a headache to hear that the military council has no preparation to get (us) back to our ancestral homelands with citizenship rights.”

He said the Myanmar military council was reluctant.

Khin Maung, Executive director of the Rohingya Youth Association (RYA), told EFE that the repatriation move was a public relations campaign of the Myanmar junta.

“Actually it is a good initiative, we welcome them. But we have doubts whether they are doing it honestly or two show international community,” Maung said.

“If I cannot live in my own village why do I have to go now? They are working just as a public relations campaign.”

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