Officials have announced plans to begin letting Rohingya Muslims return to Myanmar as early as mid-November, but United Nations officials worry the refugees won’t be welcomed by their home country, the Guardian reports.
The anouncement comes after the UN's warning last week that a genocide against the Rohingya continues. More than 720,000 of the Muslim minority fled Myanmar in August 2017 to escape violent ethnic cleansing and religious persecution. The stateless group arrived in the Cox Bazar district of Bangladesh at Kutupalong, the world’s fastest growing refugee camp, traumatized by inhumane treatment. Many there continue to live in makeshift shelters.
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Bangladeshi and Burmese officials don’t seem to be very concerned, and claim they reached an agreement for the Rohingya to return home.
Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque and Burmese Foreign Secretary Myint Thu assured reporters on Tuesday that the crisis was under control.
“We have trained the police, different law and enforcement agencies in workshops – educating them against discrimination. Also, we have been raising awareness against such discriminations,” Myint Thu said of Myanmar’s new strategy for guarding the Rohingya.
Even if the Rohingya are better protected, that doesn’t solve the housing issue at hand — many homes that belonged to refugees were destroyed. Upon returning to their country, the minitory group will probably be placed in government housing in Rakhine, a state on the western coast, according to the Guardian. Human rights groups are skeptical of the conditions there and Amnesty International has referred to the accommodations as "open air prisons."
They came by boat.— UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) October 29, 2018
They walked barefoot for days.
They waded through vast rice fields.
Over 720,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since September 2017. pic.twitter.com/YEH5PleaSz
This is the second time repatriation has been rushed. In November 2017, Myanmar and Bangladesh tried to establish a plan without much success, due to the scale of the logistical task. By June 2018, Myanmar formed an agreement with the UN to meet specific requirements before advising the Rohingya to return, such as installing safety guarantees and offering a clear path toward citizenship.
Human rights groups are skeptical of their progress. Andrej Mahecic, spokes person for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) told the Guardian that the agency “does not believe that conditions are currently in place in Myanmar for voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees.”
Despite these dangers, and the fact that the government hasn’t officially encouraged the group to return, Burmese authorities reported more than 100 Rohingyas have already gone back to Myanmar in recent months.