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Guarantee security of life before repatriation

Rohingya communities from across the globe have demanded that the Rohingya refugees sheltering in Bangladesh be guaranteed security of life and property and peaceful coexistence as equals with all other people in Myanmar before they are repatriated.

"There is no change of attitude of the Myanmar government and its military towards Rohingya; still they identify Rohingya as recent 'Bengali interlopers' from Bangladesh," they said in a joint statement issued January 17.

Rohingyas continue entering Bangladesh due to continuing violence and brutality against them in Rakhine, says the statement that comes a day after Myanmar and Bangladesh signed terms of reference of physical arrangement in Nay Pyi Taw, on January 16.

Earlier on November 23, the two countries signed a repatriation deal amid global outcry against military crackdown on the Rohingya in Rakhine that forced over 655,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh since August 25 last year.

The UN and the US termed it ethnic violence, while rights bodies defined it as genocide.

As per the arrangements, Myanmar will begin taking back the Rohingyas subject to verification from January 23 and will shelter them in a transit camp before Myanmar authorities build houses for them.

"The question is how the terrified and traumatised refugees would be repatriated to Rakhine State where they experienced, witnessed and fled the genocidal brutality of Myanmar troops, Rakhine extremists and other vigilantes," says the statement posted by Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation, UK.

Refugees are homesick, but they are unwilling to return as congenial atmosphere has not been created yet for safe and voluntary repatriation with dignity and honour, the statement said.

"The refugees should be settled in their homes. It would be worst simply moving the refugees from camps in Bangladesh to dislodgement sites in Myanmar," it said.

It is dangerous that the regime has already claimed state-ownership of Rohingyas' land within the affected region of northern Rakhine State, said the statement, signed by 15 Rohingya organisations including from the UK, USA, Denmark, Japan, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Italy, Sweden, Norway and Netherlands.

They placed 12 specific demands that include involvement of the UN refugee agency in the repatriation process, consulting refugee representatives, allowing refugees to identify themselves as Rohingya, and rehabilitating them in their original homes and properties with full compensation under UN supervision with peace-keeping force.

They also insisted on creating demilitarised UN safe zones in northern Rakhine State, as an interim measure, in order to guarantee security of life, property and dignity of the persecuted people, and restoring full Myanmar citizenship of the Rohingya.

(c) 2017 The Daily Star

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