With Myanmar’s support, Rohingya family at zero line returns to refugee camp in Rakhine

The relocation was not part of the repatriation agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar, says a top official

YANGON

4 min read

With the support of Myanmar government, a Rohingya family, who had fled from Rakhine state to the zero line along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border in Bandarban, has returned to a refugee camp set up by the Myanmar government in Rakhine state.

A report published by bdnews24.com on Sunday quoted a Myanmar government statement saying, “Five members of a Muslim family…came to the Taungpyoletwea reception center in Rakhine state this (Saturday) morning.”

The report also quoted Bangladesh Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam as saying “But the relocation was not part of the repatriation agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar.”

Nearly 7,000 Rohingyas are camped at the zero line of the Myanmar-Bangladesh border near Bagerhat’s Ghumdhum, he said. They do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Bangladesh government, he added.

“Those in no man’s land do not fall under the agreement because they are on the Myanmar side of the zero line. Bangladesh has called on Myanmar to first relocate the Rohingyas at the zero line before taking the ones at the Cox’s Bazar camp,” said Kalam.

As per the report, Rohingyas camped at no man’s land say that Akhtar Alam, a local official, was the head of the family that returned to Rakhine. He had fled to the zero line a few months ago with the other members of his family.

According to a Rohingya source at the zero line, Alam had gone back of his own volition. The family passed through the Dhekibnia border point and went to Rakhine with the support of Myanmar’s Border Guard Police, they reportedly said.

Sources said the Rohingyas had heard that the family also obtained National Verification Cards (NVCs).

Reportedly, about 700,000 Rohingyas had crossed the border into Bangladesh following clashes between Myanmar armed forces and insurgents on Aug 25 of last year. The Bangladesh government, with support from various international organisations, has been providing the refugees with emergency humanitarian aid at several refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Bangladesh and Myanmar have signed an agreement for repatriation of the Rohingya refugees.

The Bangladesh government is compiling a verified list of the Rohingyas at the camps for the repatriation effort. The repatriation process has not yet begun as preparations have yet to be completed.

In addition to the Rohingyas who crossed the border into Bangladesh, several thousand are camped out at the zero line near the Ghumdhum border. Akhtar Alam’s family was among them.

This situation was not clear in the report from the Myanmar government.

That report stated that five members of a Muslim family had reached the reception centre at Taungpyoletwea.

The bdnews24.com report citing the Myanmar government statement also stated: “The family members were scrutinized by immigration and health ministry officials and the social welfare, relief and resettlement ministry provided them with ‘materials such as rice, mosquito netting, blankets, t-shirt, longyis (Burmese sarong) and kitchen utensils.’”

The report also said that the family was issued NVCs because the family members were “in line with the rules”.

The Myanmar government has long been reluctant to recognise Rohingyas as citizens. Even those who receive NVCs are not identified as Myanmar nationals.

Though Rohingyas have lived in the Rakhine area for generations, they are considered ‘Bangalees’ by the Myanmar government, the armed forces and many people.

The UN says that the issue of Rohingya citizenship must be cleared up before the repatriation effort begins. All parties must ensure that the repatriation process must occur in a safe, respectful and voluntary manner and following international law, it said.

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