Red Cross says conditions not right for Rohingyas to return

Lester Mason
November 15, 2018

Over 723,000 members of the mostly Muslim minority fled to Bangladesh escaping a military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state in August 2017, reports Efe news.

Bangladesh authorities have said they've worked with the United Nations refugee agency to compile lists of people willing to return to Myanmar.

Another community leader, Dil Mohammad, said the situation in Myanmar was not yet conducive for the refugees' return. Last year, almost 700,000 Rohingya fled to nearby Bangladesh after security forces' clearance operations in the area following Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacks on police outposts there. The military is in charge of security operations, including those in Rakhine.

Last week, the U.N.'s independent investigator for human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, called the plans "rushed" and said she was concerned there were no guarantees that the refugees would be protected from new persecution if they return home.

Most people in Buddhist-majority Myanmar do not accept that the Rohingya Muslims are a native ethnic group.

The "reception centers" and "transit camp" Myanmar built this year to process and house returnees from Bangladesh are surrounded by barbed-wire perimeter fences and security outposts, similar to the physical confinement structures in the central Rakhine internally displaced persons camps.

Hundreds staged a demonstration near the Myanmar border shouting "we will not go" on the day the first batch were due to be sent back.

Rohingya refugees Sitara Begum with her son Mohammed Abbas, who are in the list for repatriation wait in their shelter at Jamtoli refugee camp, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on Thursday.

"According to the UNHCR voluntariness assessment, none of the 50 families interviewed expressed their willingness to go back under the present circumstances".

"I'm scared about the repatriation", he said.

"Examples of things they're trying to take away from each other include iconography, coins, everything from skin lotion to wrestling", Prasse-Freeman said.

"We won't go!" hundreds of voices, including children's, chanted in reply.

Like many others he has sent his family into hiding in the camps.

The UN said that at least two elderly men in the refugee camps had attempted suicide rather than face the possibility of returning to the site of crimes against the Rohingya.

The refugees "are not willing to go back now", Refugee Commissioner Abul Kalam told The Associated Press, adding that officials "can't force them to go" but will continue to try to "motivate them so it happens".

"Of course, people have different points of view, but the point is that we should exchange those views and learn to understand each other better", she responded. "I don't want to go back". "How can we go there?" According to the head of the United Nations fact-finding mission, the genocide in Rakhine against the muslim minority is "still ongoing" and there were demonstrations this week among Buddhist Rakhine communities who protested against the return of the Rohingya.

It's true that the Rohingya people are detested by large parts of Burmese society and particularly in Rakhine state where the worst persecution has played out. Dozens of rights groups say they are shocked.

Its U.N. observer, Robert Mardini, said Wednesday that conditions are not right for Rohingya refugees to return.

"We have made all preparations and two of our repatriation centres are ready".

The mass influx of refugees joined about 300,000 Rohingya already in camps around the Bangladesh city of Cox's Bazar having fled earlier violence.

She warned that lives would be put at "serious risk" if the repatriation was to go ahead.

Bangladesh authorities said they are ready to begin repatriating some of the more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled from army-led violence in Myanmar since a year ago.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption There's fear about the future in the camps Why are the Rohingya in Bangladesh?

There have been widespread allegations of human rights abuses, including arbitrary killing, rape and burning of land over many years.

The huge exodus of Rohingya began in August a year ago after Myanmar security forces launched a brutal crackdown following attacks by an insurgent group on guard posts.

Waves of Rohingya fled to Bangladesh during previous bouts of repression.

A United Nations report said Myanmar military leaders should be investigated for genocide.

Though she has been the de facto head of Myanmar's civilian government since her party swept elections in 2015, she is limited in her control of the country by a constitution written under the former military junta.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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