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Secret UN, Burma deal under global scrutiny

No guarantee on Rohingya citizenship, rights

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01st-Jul-2018       
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Desk Report :
The secret deal between the United Nations (UN) and Myanmar over Rohingya repatriation comes under the global scrutiny, as it does not offer guarantees on Rohingya citizenship.
Refugee leaders and human rights groups criticized UN for its failure to ensure basic rights for some of the 700,000 Rohingya refugees who fled their homes for neighbouring Bangladesh after a brutal military campaign last year.
The UN inked the deal with the government of Burma at the end of May to begin the long process of resettling the refugees, but the agreement has been kept unusually 'secret'.
The three parties that signed the memorandum of understanding (MoU), -- the UN refugee agency, or UNHCR; the UN Development Programme; and the Burmese government -- have declined to make the text of the agreement available to those who have asked to see it, including journalists, other UN officials and UN donor countries such as the United States.
The Burmese government promoted the agreement as proof that it is doing right by the Rohingya, a persecuted minority that is denied citizenship rights and freedom of movement in Burma. The United Nations has celebrated it as a major first step that would help secure the future of the Rohingya in Burma. However, the text of the secret MoU leaked out online on Friday, just ahead of UN Secretary General António Guterres visit to Bangladesh, shows that Rohingya refugees returning to Myanmar will have no explicit guarantees of citizenship or freedom of movement throughout the country although citizenship and rights of refugees were key points of contention during negotiations over the agreement.
The deal states "returnees will enjoy the same freedom of movement as all other Myanmar nationals in Rakhine State, in conformity with existing laws and regulations."
However, it does not guarantee freedom of movement beyond the borders of Rakhine or address the laws and regulations that currently prevent Rohingya from travelling freely.
"As it stands, returning Rohingya to Rakhine means returning them to an apartheid state - a place where they can't move around freely and struggle to access schools, hospitals and places they rely on for work," said Laura Haigh, Amnesty International's Myanmar researcher. "Nothing in this document provides any guarantees that this will change."
Bangladesh and Myanmar struck a deal in November under which Myanmar would take back Rohingya refugees after verifying their family details.
"Repatriation of Rohingya refugees would not be sustainable unless their citizenship and basic rights are guaranteed," a refugee and migration expert Asif Munir told The New Nation.

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