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Doubts about safe return: AI Idea laughable: HRW

Myanmar agrees to take back only recent Rohingya refugees

26 November 2017 bdnews24.com

Myanmar will take back only those refugees who fled to Bangladesh following the violence on Oct 9, 2016 and Aug 25 this year.
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali briefed the media on Saturday on his recent trip to Myanmar and a Rohingya repatriation agreement signed with the Southeast Asian nation on Nov 23.
The deal covers the residents of Rakhine State who have crossed over  to Bangladesh after Oct 9, 2016 and Aug 25, 2017.
The repatriation of residents who crossed over to Bangladesh earlier will be considered separately on the conclusion of the present agreement, according to the agreement.
The governments would arrange for the voluntary return in 'safety, security and dignity with options for recommencing livelihood' after they had been verified to be Myanmar residents, the agreement says.
The deal outlines the criteria for repatriation:
(i)    Returnees must be residents of Myanmar
(ii)    Returnees must be the ones who voluntarily wish to return to Myanmar by themselves
(iii)    The members of split families and their left-behind members, and orphans need to be certified by a court of Bangladesh
(iv)    Both parents of additional offspring born on the other side of the border must be residents of Myanmar
(iv)    Children born out of unwarranted incidents are to be certified by a court of Bangladesh
A joint working group is to be formed to oversee all aspects of the repatriation within three weeks of the agreement's signing. The repatriation process will begin in two months.
The Rohingya minority in Myanmar fled across the border to Bangladesh amid fear of persecution following insurgent attacks on border police on Oct 9, 2016 and Aug 25, 2017.
The attack on Oct 9 led to the deaths of nine Myanmar police personnel, while the Aug 24attack resulted in the death of 12 security force personnel and 59 insurgents.
Nearly 67,000 Rohingyas had entered Bangladesh soon after the Oct 9 attacks, the  foreign ministry had said on Jan 31, 2017.
Over 600,000 more have taken refuge in Cox's Bazar since the Myanmar military began a crackdown in Rakhine state following the August attack.
Nearly 400,000 Rohingyas, who had crossed the border at various points in the past few decades, had already been living in Bangladesh before then.
In 1992, Bangladesh signed a repatriation agreement with the then military regime of Myanmar, following which 236,599 Rohingyas returned to their homeland. But another 2,415 were denied entry even after meeting the criteria under the arrangement.
Last month, Foreign Minister Ali said the previous arrangement will not work now as the current situation is 'entirely different' and verifying Rohingyas based on their residence in Rakhine is not 'realistic' anymore.
The two countries also agreed to seek the assistance of UN refugee agency UNHCR in the return process.
Aid agencies and rights bodies, however, have expressed concerns over return of Rohingyas to Myanmar without a guarantee for their safety.
"The idea that Burma will now welcome them back to their smoldering villages with open arms is laughable," said Bill Frelick, refugee rights director at Human Rights Watch.
"Instead of signing on to a public relations stunt, the international community should make it clear that there can be no returns without international monitors to ensure security, an end to the idea of putting returnees in camps, the return of land and the rebuilding of destroyed homes and villages."
On Nov 23, Amnesty International said they had doubts about a safe return while "a system of apartheid remains" in Myanmar.
In a statement, the London-based group said it hopes those who do not want to go back are not forced to do so.

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