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Burma repatriates first Rohingya family despite United Nations warnings
15 April 2018, 05:56 | Opal Carroll
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Myanmar government has repatriated the first Rohingya family from almost 700,000 refugees who fled to Bangladesh after violence in the Western Rakhine state of the country.
Around 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh since August 2017 due to military operations in the Rakhine State against the minority Rohingya Muslim community.
Burma has denied almost all allegations, saying it waged a legitimate counter-insurgency operation.
Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed in January to complete a voluntary repatriation of the refugees in two years.
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.
The Myanmar government announced late on Saturday that a family of refugees had become the first to be processed in newly built repatriation centres earlier that day.
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"The five members of a family. came back to Taungpyoletwei town repatriation camp in Rakhine state this morning", the post said. The Associated Press has obtained an advance copy of the report presented by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the Security Council which states "The widespread threat and use of sexual violence was integral to this strategy, serving to humiliate, terrorise and collectively punish the Rohingya community, as a calculated tool to force them to flee their homelands and prevent their return".
In February, Bangladesh released a list of more than 8,000 Rohingya for repatriation. The Rohingya family had been living in a camp erected on a patch there [between the two countries].
Many Rohingya refugees say they fear returning to a country where they saw their relatives murdered by soldiers.
Andrea Giorgetta from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) blasted the repatriation announcement as "a public relations exercise in an attempt to deflect attention from the need for accountability for crimes committed in Rakhine State".
Last week, the most senior United Nations official to visit Burma this year, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ursula Mueller, said the conditions in Burma were not conducive to the return of the refugees. Many refuse to return without a guarantee of basic rights and citizenship.
The UN refugee agency has said conditions in Myanmar were not ready for the Rohingya refugees to return. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) estimated that at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the first month of the crackdown alone.
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