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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Rohingya family back in Myanmar

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The Myanmar authorities have let it be known that a family of Rohingyas has returned to Rakhine state and has been provided with the documents necessary for it to pursue a normal life. Of course, the papers the family of five has been given does not give them citizenship but only identity cards. That said, the circumstances under which the family could go back to Myanmar are questionable.

The Bangladesh government is unaware of the details and clearly has been distancing itself from the move. Moreover, the deal which Dhaka recently reached with Naypyitaw over the repatriation of the Rohingyas --- a deal which failed to make the UN and others happy because of an absence of needed guarantees of safety for the returnees --- seems to have stalled. In other words, there is at present no conceivable movement on the refugee question.

And that is precisely where reports of the return to Rakhine of the family in question raise doubts about the sincerity of the Myanmar authorities. The family apparently was based in a camp on the no-man's land between Bangladesh and Myanmar, which in effect means that no Rohingya refugees within Bangladesh were part of this Myanmar move. It will be interesting to see if Myanmar takes in more Rohingyas and the circumstances in which it does so.

None of this, however, detracts from the thought that Myanmar must be kept under pressure by the international community on the issue of a safe, honourable return for the nearly 700,000 refugees now in camps in Bangladesh. The issue cannot be pushed under the rug.

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