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Uncertainty looms over repatriation of Rohingya on rights grounds

Tin-shed infrastructures developed in Rakhine State by Myanmar's military junta for the repatriation of Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh have been described by displaced people as their relocation from one refugee camp to another, which they reject and insist on fulfilling their basic rights before carrying out any plan of their repatriation.

While analysts believe that the recent negotiations over refugee repatriation and the visit by a 20-member Rohingya delegation and Bangladeshi officials to Maungdaw Township and surrounding villages in Rakhine State to assess resettlement are nothing more than an attempt by the military junta to absorb international pressure.

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are steadfast in their three basic demands, which they claim are their fundamental rights, for any initiative of reparation to their homeland in Rakhine State.

"We are refugees in Bangladesh, but we can't be refugees in our own country where we have assets, land properties, and a long ancestral background," a Rohingya youth Mohammad Ali told Anadolu.

Ali, who is currently living in a refugee shelter on the remote island of Bhasan Char in the southern Bay of Bengal, added that unless three basic demands are met, none of their community members will be repatriated.

"Our citizenship rights must be restored, our assets, including land properties captured by the Burmese (Myanmar) Military Junta, to be returned to us, and our rights to freely travel to any part of Myanmar must be ensured," Ali, a father of four children, said.

Criticizing the tin-shed infrastructures developed in Rakhine State for the repatriation, he underlined that the Myanmar military government intends to keep them in another camp without citizenship rights, leaving them dependent on aid.

"Do we deserve to be reliant on aid in our own motherland as refugees fleeing genocide?" he questioned, urging the Bangladesh government not to force them to return to Myanmar without first ensuring their basic human rights.

Almost in the same breath, a Rohingya student Mohammad Amir, who is now living in the Balukhali refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, told Anadolu that he fled the 2017 genocide in Rakhine while studying in class 10.

"I am very disappointed that I was unable to continue my studies in Bangladesh," he said, adding that "I want to return to my homeland as a citizen, not as a refugee, with the assurance of my academic career."

He added that no Rohingya were interested in falling into a trap set by the 'cunning Myanmar military junta' under the guise of repatriation.

'Befooling the world'

Myanmar authorities are not interested in taking back the Rohingya and just tactfully want to avoid international pressures, said Ambia Perveen, chairperson of the European Rohingya Council (ERC).

There have been several attempts, but repatriation has never been successful, Perveen stated in response to Anadolu's questions, adding that 'The Myanmar government has never been interested in taking Rohingya back. It's just they are trying to fool the world.'

Concerning citizenship rights, she said if the Myanmar military junta wishes to repatriate Rohingya from Bangladesh, it must first demonstrate its sincerity by allowing free movement and return of 130,000 internally displaced Rohingya Muslims who have been living in camps in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, since 2012.

Expert on refugee affairs and former professor of international relations at Dhaka University, CR Abrar, told Anadolu that repatriation cannot be sustainable until the International Court of Justice (ICJ) trial of the Rohingya genocide is completed.

'This case should be completed first with the source of genocide against Rohingya to be formally revealed before the world. Otherwise, the risks of genocide will always remain active,' Abrar believed, noting that Myanmar's military junta and the perpetrators of genocide still have shown no remorse.

He alleged that in a planned way the Myanmar military has cleaned all the documents of genocide in Rakhine State.

'Just after developing some settlements with tins, how can we expect sustainable repatriation? In the wake of the genocide trial, Myanmar actually wants to show before the world that they are taking back their citizens,' Abrar observed.

He urged Bangladesh to make "robust" and "consistent" diplomatic efforts to put effective international pressure on Myanmar to take back Rohingya with due rights and dignity.

Rohingya-Myanmar fresh dialogue

Bangladesh's Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, told Anadolu over the phone that Dhaka has no option to solve the Rohingya crisis without their repatriation.

'We are always hopeful about repatriation, and it will be proceeded based on reality, and we want to continue it on a voluntary basis without putting any pressure on the Rohingya,' Rahman said.

Concerning Rohingya citizenship rights, which the persecuted people have claimed as a precondition for repatriation, the refugee commissioner said it is a Myanmar internal matter.

"How can Bangladesh address the issue of citizenship? We don't meddle in the internal affairs of a sovereign country," he explained.

"We have already conducted a 'go and see visit' to Rakhine State to start the repatriation and we again invited the Myanmar authorities to visit Bangladesh and talk to Rohingya" in order to resolve all outstanding issues between Myanmar authorities and the refugees, he said.

However, no date has been fixed for this visit, he added.

On May 5, a 20-member group of refugees, along with officials from Bangladesh, paid a one-day trip to Rakhine State, while a weeklong meeting between a 22-member high-level delegation from Myanmar and the Rohingya ended in March this year without a fruitful outcome.

Source: Anadolu Agency