First group of Rohingya refugees returns to Myanmar

First group of Rohingya refugees returns to Myanmar

The United Nations and the USA have described the army crackdown as "ethnic cleansing".

The family members were scrutinised 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 government said.

He said they heard that the family was part of 6000 Rohingyas living on the zero line.

The statement says authorities determined whether they had lived in the country and provided them with a National Verification card - a form of ID that does not mean citizenship that Rohingya have been denied in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they have faced persecution for decades. It said the family had been sent to stay "temporarily" with relatives in Maungdaw town.

It is not clear if more repatriations are planned.

The UNHCR also urged the Myanmar Government to immediately provide full and unhindered access to refugees places of origin in Rakhine, which would enable it to assess the situation and provide information to refugees about conditions in the places of origin, as well as to monitor any possible future return and reintegration of refugees.

According to a Myanmar government statement posted late Saturday, one family of refugees became the first to be processed in newly built reception centres earlier in the day.

A government statement says five members of a family returned to western Rakhine state from a refugee camp across the border in Bangladesh, reports AP.

A handout photo released by Myanmar News Agency on April. 15, 2018, shows Myanmar immigration official hands over identification documents to an unidentified Rohingya woman belonging to a five-member Rohingya family at Taungpyoletwei town repatriation camp in Maungdaw near Bangladesh border.

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But Bangladesh's home minister Asaduzzaman said the reality was that the repatriation "has not started yet", adding that the single family's return was "not a meaningful act".

"They were not under our jurisdiction, therefore we can not confirm whether there would be more people waiting to go back [to Myanmar]", he told AFP.

At least 6,000 Rohingya families have been living in the no man's land since that month.

Last month a top Bangladesh cabinet minister, A M A Muhith, said it was unlikely the refugees would ever return, accusing Myanmar of deliberately obstructing the process.

Rights groups have criticised the announcement as a publicity stunt and Bangladesh has distanced itself, saying the repatriation was not part of the return process the two countries have been trying to start. Almost all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless.

Rahim said they demanded to be recognized as citizens of Myanmar before the repatriation starts and that their security arrangements be supervised by the United Nations.

Asif Munier, an independent researcher on migration and refugee, said Myanmar's unilateral action and the efforts to manipulate the issue by portraying it as "repatriation" could undermine the bilateral deal signed in November.

The move comes amid warnings from the United Nations and other rights groups that repatriation of Rohingya would be premature, as Myanmar has yet to address the systematic legal discrimination and persecution the minority has faced for decades.

The two countries agreed in December to begin repatriating them in January, but they were delayed by concerns among aid workers and Rohingya that they would be forced to return and face unsafe conditions in Myanmar.