Bangladesh: Rohingya can go home to Burma, but refuse

In the wake of a visit to Bangladesh last week by UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, according to this report a stalemate seems to have been broken about the repatriation of the final 27,000 Muslim Rohingyas back to their homeland in Burma (Myanmar).   However, they say they will go only when democracy is established in Burma.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday, the chief editor of a Burmese news agency based in Bangladesh said that Bangladeshi authorities are asking the refugees—who are almost entirely ethnic Rohingya from Arakan State in western Burma—to return home voluntarily. However, he said, the majority would refuse due to fears of reprisals from the Burmese military regime and the worsening economic crisis in the country.

The Bangladeshi government agreed to a proposal on Monday by UNHCR to reactivate a 1992 tripartite agreement to repatriate the remaining 27,000 Burmese Rohingya refugees to their homeland, said UNHCR Commissioner António Guterres on Wednesday.

Guterres said the intention of re-establishing a trilateral mechanism involving Bangladesh, the UNHCR and Burma was “to create the conditions for voluntary repatriation of the Rohingya refugees to their homeland in safety and dignity.” 

Here is what doesn’t make sense.  If 237,000 have voluntarily returned to Burma, then what is the hold up for the final 27,000.   Only a few things seem logical.  They could be troublemakers who fear to return, or they could be enjoying the care and attention they get from the UN and humanitarian groups while begging to be resettled in the West.

Around 258,000 ethnic Rohingya people from Arakan State fled to Bangladesh in 1991, following a campaign of human rights abuses by the Burmese junta. They were registered as refugees by the government of Bangladesh, but without any proper legal status.

By 2006, around 237,000 refugees had returned to Burma. Most of the remaining refugees live in two camps in Nayapara and Kutupalong in Cox’s Bazar, where they receive assistance from the UNHCR and World Food Programme.

See our category “Rohingya Reports” for our archive on the Rohingya efforts to be resettled in first world countries.

P.S. Based on his efforts here, I like Guterres for trying to solve this problem without automatically whisking more Muslim refugees to the US and the West.

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