Conditions in Rohingya Refugee Camps “Very Poor”, Repatriation Process Must Commence As Soon As Possible, Says Myanmar Minister
Last Thursday, a senior Myanmar minister expressed his concerns over the “very poor conditions” of Rohingya refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh, insisting that the upcoming monsoon season should be the catalyst for the repatriation of the country’s beleaguered Muslim minority.
“Seeing is believing and we saw all the people in the camps are in very poor condition,” said Win Myat Aye, Myanmar’s Social Welfare Minister. “Our main thing is to start the repatriation process as soon as possible because the monsoon is very near and we are very worried for those who fled to Bangladesh”.
Myanmar’s panel of international advisers echoed Win Myat Aye’s statements, warning that the Bangladeshi camps were not built to withstand harsh conditions and that the monsoon season could very well bring “enormous deaths”.
According to the United Nations, military operations conducted by the Myanmese government since August 2017 has resulted in nearly 700,000 Rohingyas fleeing to Bangladesh. A sizable majority ended up in shoddy, bamboo-and-plastic structures around the Cox’s Bazar area in southern Bangladesh.
Earlier this year, in January, Myanmar and Bangladesh had reached an agreement to undergo and complete a voluntary repatriation of the Rohingya within two years. As such, Myanmar had set up two reception centres near the border as a temporary camp to house initial arrivals.
On Saturday, Myanmar announced that it had successfully repatriated the first Rohingya family. Both the Bangladeshi government and the United Nations refugee agency, however, refuted this claim, saying that neither party had any knowledge of such a repatriation.
Aye also stated that Rohingyas who return to Myanmar after the repatriation will be entitled to apply for National Verification Cards (NVC’s). NVC’s are part of the Myanmese government’s plans to register the currently stateless Rohingyas while stopping short of offering them citizenship.
The refugees, however, would have to undergo an intense vetting process. “Those who are entitled to become citizens will become citizens”, said Aye while adding that the refugees will only be granted citizenship within 5 months after they were “scrutinized according to the law”.
The Muslim minority of Myanmar, commonly referred to as the Rohingya, are among the most persecuted communities in the modern world. Making up most of the population of Rakhine, a province located in northern Myanmar, the Rohingya have been repeatedly denied citizenship and were accused of being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. In 2017, it was reported that at least 6,700 Rohingya civilians had been killed in response to an act of violence by Rohingya Arsa militants. While Myanmar’s military denied targeting civilians and claims that they were merely fighting Rohingya militants, the United Nations has described the violence in Rakhine as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.