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Repatriation camps not conducive for Rohingya returns, states HRW

FROM THE DVB NEWSROOM

Burma’s military and the Bangladesh government have developed a repatriation pilot project for Rohingya refugees without consulting any Rohingya, Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated on May 18. Twenty Rohingya accompanied by Bangladesh officials visited settlement camps in northern Rakhine State intended to house 1,100 Rohingya refugees repatriated from Bangladesh on May 5. The Rohingya delegation visited Hla Poe Kaung transit camp and Kyein Chaung resettlement camp in Maungdaw Township, where activists state the land belonged to Rohingya families prior to the 2017 military “clearance operations” which was labelled genocide by the U.S. government in 2022. 

HRW interviewed five Rohingya refugees that took part in the tour. They were given booklets stating that they would be housed in Hla Poe Kaung transit camp for up to two months and then transferred to a resettlement camp where they would be allowed to build a home. The military will be deployed in the resettlement camp “to ensure the rule of law and security in the areas where the returnees reside or pass through,” the booklet adds. Rohingya who took part in the trip expressed concerns about reference to the National Verification Cards (NVC). Rohingya are not considered citizens under Burma’s 1982 Citizenship Law and these cards do not grant citizenship. “Why do we have to apply for NVCs when we’re born there and have proof of being from Myanmar,” one of the Rohingya delegates told HRW. NVC holders do not have freedom of movement in Burma. 

Rohingya delegates, who participated in the trip, mentioned that Bangladesh authorities pressured them to attend. HRW claimed that two of the refugees who criticized the conditions of the repatriation camps were harassed by Bangladesh intelligence officers. Bangladesh officials informed the Rohingya on the repatriation list to prepare for their return. The plans for the repatriation comes as Rohingya in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in northern Rakhine were devastated by Cyclone Mocha on May 14. Hundreds of Rohingya are feared to have been killed in the storms and the IDP camps are located in areas vulnerable to natural disasters such as cyclones, storm surges and flooding. At least 600,000 Rohingya remain in Rakhine State. Nearly 700,000 Rohingya were forced to flee Burma for Bangladesh in 2017. For the last five years they’ve been languishing in squalid refugee camps across the border hoping for the day they can return home.

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