Rohingya refugees fear, mistrust Myanmar government

1 / 4
The refugees who spoke to Arab News thought the Myanmar government was insincere about repatriation efforts. (AN photo by Shehab Sumon)
2 / 4
The refugees who spoke to Arab News thought the Myanmar government was insincere about repatriation efforts. (AN photo by Shehab Sumon)
3 / 4
The refugees who spoke to Arab News thought the Myanmar government was insincere about repatriation efforts. (AN photo by Shehab Sumon)
4 / 4
The refugees who spoke to Arab News thought the Myanmar government was insincere about repatriation efforts. (AN photo by Shehab Sumon)
Updated 25 August 2019
0

Rohingya refugees fear, mistrust Myanmar government

  • Two failed repatriation attempts since November
  • UN says Myanmar military had ‘genocidal intent’

DHAKA: Rohingya refugees have told Arab News they do not trust the Myanmar government to keep them safe and secure if they return home, days after a second attempt to repatriate them failed.

Refugees in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state two years ago that the United Nations liked to ethnic cleansing. More than a million Rohingya live in Bangladesh.

Nobi Hossain refused to believe the promises made by Myanmar authorities when they visited Cox’s Bazar in July.

“In recent months violence has escalated again in Rakhine,” he said. “The conflict has become more widespread as local Buddhist groups are also engaged in fighting against the military. So who will look after our safety in Rakhine?”

Bangladesh signed a repatriation deal with Myanmar to repatriate the Rohingya in November 2017. The first repatriation attempt failed last November, when no refugees voluntarily agreed to go home.

“I don't think there are any favorable conditions for repatriation to Rakhine,” Azizur Rahman told Arab News. “A few of our relatives are still living there and they informed us the Rohingyas have no freedom of movement there.”

His nephew and some neighbours have been living in a camp for internally displaced people following a military offensive in 2012. The camp houses around 150,000 Rohingyas and they are prevented from working, making them dependent on humanitarian assistance. 

Mohammad Ayub said Rohingyas were being asked to accept a national verification card, which the Burma Human Rights Network has said will exacerbate the refugees’ suffering once they return to Myanmar.

The Rohingya have faced decades of discrimination and repression in Myanmar. They are effectively denied citizenship under the country’s 1982 Citizenship Law and are one of the largest stateless populations in the world, while also enduring restrictions on movement and a lack of access to basic health care.

“We didn't get any guarantee of citizenship during last month’s dialogue with Myanmar authorities,” Ayub told Arab News. “Rather they have asked us to accept the NVC (National Verification Card) which doesn't make any sense when it's meant for foreign nationals. I was born in Rakhine and have been living there for three generations. Why should I accept the NVC?”

Myanmar denies widespread wrongdoing and says the military campaign across villages in northern Rakhine was in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents. 

But the UN said last Thursday that sexual violence committed by troops against Rohingya women and girls in 2017 was an indication of the military’s genocidal intent to destroy the minority.

The refugees who spoke to Arab News thought the Myanmar government was insincere about repatriation efforts. 

“We want to go back Rakhine to our original places, where we usually live,” Rahima Khatun said. “But we have been asked to live in a camp in Rakhine after repatriation. So why should we move from one camp to another?”

The UN Refugee agency UNHCR says lack of trust in the Myanmar government is one of the main reasons for the failure of the Aug. 22 repatriation attempt.

“Building confidence is essential,” said Louise Donovan, UNHCR spokeswoman in Cox’s Bazar. “In late July, senior officials from Myanmar met Rohingya refugees in the camps in Bangladesh. This was an important first step, and the dialogue should continue. Together with the UNDP, the UNHCR is supporting Myanmar’s efforts through the implementation of quick impact projects to improve conditions for all communities in Rakhine State and promote social cohesion between them, so that the voluntary return and reintegration of refugees is possible.”

But there should be a “continuous engagement of all concerned” in the repatriation process in order to build trust with refugees, she said, and this approach was “a process, not a one-off event.”


Johnson the Brexit ‘Hulk’ finally meets EU’s Juncker

Updated 16 September 2019
0

Johnson the Brexit ‘Hulk’ finally meets EU’s Juncker

  • Downing Street has confidently billed the Luxembourg visit as part of efforts to negotiate an orderly divorce from the union

LUXEMBOURG: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker for talks Monday insisting a Brexit deal is possible, despite deep skepticism from European capitals with just six weeks to go before departure day.
After a weekend in which he compared himself to comic book super-smasher Hulk, the British leader will enjoy a genteel working lunch of snails and salmon in Luxembourg with the EU Commission president.
Downing Street has confidently billed the Luxembourg visit as part of efforts to negotiate an orderly divorce from the union before an October 17 EU summit.
A UK spokesman said Johnson would tell Juncker that “progress has been made, given that before the summer recess many said reopening talks would not be possible.
“The UK needs to enact the referendum result and avoid another delay; the UK wants to deliver Brexit and move on to other priorities, and EU member states’ leaders want to renegotiate an orderly Brexit.”
But Brussels has played down talk of a breakthrough, insisting Johnson has yet to suggest any “legally operable” proposal to revise a previous withdrawal accord.
As he shook hands with Johnson, Juncker declared himself “cautiously optimistic” and insisted that “Europe never loses patience” despite the tortuous Brexit saga dragging on over three years.
Finland’s European affairs minister, Tytti Tuppurainen, who was chairing an EU ministerial meeting in Brussels, gave a more downbeat assessment, repeating the bloc’s long-standing complaint that London has simply not come up with detailed ideas for replacing the so-called “Irish backstop” section of the divorce deal.
“The European Union is always ready to negotiate when a proper proposal from the UK side is presented,” Tuppurainen said.
“So far I haven’t seen any proposal that would compensate the backstop.”
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who joined the leaders for their talks in Juncker’s native Grand Duchy, said last week he has “no reason to be optimistic.”
The European Parliament will this week vote on a resolution rejecting Johnson’s demand that the backstop clause be stripped from the deal.
Johnson insists this measure, which temporarily keeps the UK in the EU customs union, has to go if he is to bring the agreement back to the House of Commons.
But the accord will also have to win the support of the other 27 EU leaders and the European Parliament if Britain is not to crash out with no deal on October 31 — a scenario that businesses warn would bring economic chaos.
Johnson, in turn, boasts that he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask his European counterparts to postpone Brexit for a third time.
“Be in no doubt that if we cannot get a deal — the right deal for both sides — then the UK will come out anyway,” Johnson said, writing in the Daily Telegraph on Monday.
A UK spokesman said that Britain would refuse an extension even if one were offered.
It is difficult, then, to see what might come from the lunch. There is no plan for a joint statement, but Barnier will meet Britain’s Brexit minister Stephen Barclay for separate discussions.
Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, Barclay indicated that any post-Brexit transition period could be extended past 2020 in order to resolve issues with the border.
Johnson, meanwhile, compared himself to Marvel comics hero Hulk, the rampaging mutant alter-ego of a mild-mannered nuclear scientist.
“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets and he always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be,” Johnson told the Mail on Sunday.
Johnson’s strategy faces resistance at home, where rebel and opposition MPs have passed a law aimed at forcing him to seek a Brexit delay.
Britain’s Supreme Court will rule this week on a bid to overturn Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament and limit time to debate the crisis.
Barnier will address the European Parliament session in Strasbourg on Wednesday as MEPs vote to reaffirm and reinforce the EU Brexit stance — and insist that the backstop must stay.
After his lunch with Juncker, Johnson is due to meet Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. The pair will hold a joint news conference.