Myanmar and Bangladesh have announced that the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees, from Bangladesh to Myanmar, will start imminently and they plan for all 650,000 refugees to be returned “home” within two years.
Preparations are being made for the return and the Myanmar Government have said that they will house the returning refugees in temporary accommodation (camps that are 124 acres with 625 buildings that can house 30,000) whilst they quickly rebuild the Rohingya peoples home for them to return to.
This course of action raises many concerning questions, the first one being, why would Myanmar plan to quickly rebuild the Rohingya homes when it was Myanmar that burned these homes to the ground in the first place? In an act of terror that has been named by many as “ethnic cleansing” and a state of “apartheid”, how can the Rohingya people feel any sense of security or trust that this is in fact what is going to happen? What is more, have Myanmar set a clear plan to be able to rehouse the 30,000 residents living in the camps before more refugees arrive to the camps? Otherwise that space for 30,000 people will start bursting at the seams as the other 620,000 refugees come across the Bangladesh border. For a country that has raped and killed the Rohingya people, whilst pillaging and burning their homes and whilst driving them off their lands, how can anyone trust their proposed repatriation plan?
It would however suit Myanmar, a country that refuses to acknowledge the Rohingya people as Myanmar citizens, very well if the Rohingya’s were left in the camps. US Secretary General Antonio Gutteres has been reported by CNN as saying:
the “worst” situation would be if the refugees were merely rehoused in camps in Myanmar, “keeping an artificial situation for a long time and not allowing for them to regain their normal lives.
Myanmar has long since refused to acknowledge the Rohingya’s as fellow citizens and denies them all the rights a human deserves from its country. It then launched an assault upon them to purge the country of their existence, yet they are now in talks with Bangladesh to swiftly get them back over the border and into their “mother” country. There is a great sense of unease with which this repatriation has being decided upon. The UN Refugee agency says that it was not closely involved in the decision to return the Rohingya people to Myanmar and it has urged both Bangladesh and Myanmar to ensure that all the repatriated refugees are going voluntarily. It would break international law for any refugee to be forced into returning to Myanmar. CNN also reported that:
Wakar Uddin, the US-based Director General of the Arakan Rohingya Union, a non-profit group representing various Rohingya organizations worldwide, said that he had reservations about about the safety of Rohingya once they’ve returned to Myanmar.
“It is a bad deal because the refugees are going to be transferred from one camp from Bangladesh to another camp in Burma, where there will be serious security concerns,” he said
But putting aside the reasons behind this swift repatriation, there are many other worries to consider concerning the health and well being of the Rohingya people. They have lost everything and they are refugees in a foreign land living in camps made of sticks and tarpaulin. They have endured rape (girls as young as 10 years old) and they have seen their loved ones brutally murdered, whilst having everything that they hold dear to them ripped away. Which one of them is going to be ready to return back to that country just a few short months after the traumas they have lived through? Many will still be healing both physically and mentally from the atrocities they have endured and witnessed. So how can they possibly be expected to return to the Rakhine region (where they originate) to live in camps where they do not know if they will even be allowed to live freely or not?