Government: Myanmar Repatriates First Rohingya Refugee Family

Government: Myanmar Repatriates First Rohingya Refugee Family

Since August, almost 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh, the United Nations and aid agencies have said.

About 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since Myanmar's military imposed a brutal crackdown on the Rohingya living in Rakhine State last August in what has been described as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing" - an accusation Myanmar denies.

Five members of a family who fled to Bangladesh due to ethnic violence returned to a "repatriation camp" and Myanmar authorities provided supplies and ID cards for them.

The stateless Muslim minority has been massing in squalid Bangladesh camps since the Myanmar army launched a ruthless crackdown on the community in northern Rakhine state last August.

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.

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It reported Saturday's returnees were provided the with National Verification Cards, a form of ID that falls short of citizenship and has been rejected by Rohingya leaders.

A Facebook post on the official page of Burma's Information Committee appears to show the family getting health checks and receiving packages of rice, mosquito netting and blankets.

They are now believed to be staying temporarily with relatives in Maungdaw town.

Myanmar officials could not be reached for more details on where the family had been staying beforehand or how their return was facilitated.

Most Burmese consider the Rohingya as unwanted immigrants from Bangladesh, and the army refers to them as "Bengalis".

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Andrea Giorgetta from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) criticised 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".

Many have refused to take part in repatriation until they receive guarantees about their rights and citizenship.

The agreement, signed by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque, established a framework of cooperation between UNHCR and Bangladesh on the safe, voluntary, and dignified returns of refugees in line with worldwide standards.

Last week, the most senior United Nations official to visit Myanmar this year, the assistant secretary general for humanitarian affairs, Ursula Mueller, said conditions in Myanmar were not conducive to the return of the refugees.

The confirmation comes despite United Nations warnings that it was not yet safe for families to return.

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