First Rohingya family to return staged

The first reported family to be returned to Myanmar wasn’t repatriation, Bangladesh says.

According to a Facebook post by the Myanmar government, a family of five were returned home from the border regions between both countries. The post shows images of five ‘Muslim’ people being given identity cards from Myanmar officials along with supplies from health workers.  The cards were National Verification Cards which do not grant citizenship.

Bangladesh has rejected the claim that they were repatriated, calling it a farce. Bangladesh’s Refugee Commissioner Abul Kalam told the Associated Press agency,

‘By no definition can this be called repatriation. No repatriation has taken place,’ and that, ‘Bangladesh is no way part of it.’

The Bangladesh government weren’t the only ones to sense something staged.

Rohingya Blogger, a news and advocacy outlet called it out saying, ‘this is a deception.’ The outlet said that it conducted an investigation which found that the family were from Taung Pyo Latya, the official entry point for those returning. They’d been living in the border area trying to encourage and lure other Rohingya to return. But after the plan failed, they returned to a publicity stunt framing them as ‘returnees’, the Rohingya Blogger suggests.

Speaking to the AFP news agency, Andrea Giorgetta of the International Federation for Human Rights said it was,

‘a public relations exercise in an attempt to deflect attention from the need for accountability for crimes committed in Rakhine State’.

Responding to the claims of being a PR stunt, the Myanmar government’s spokesman, Zaw Htay said it ‘is not propaganda’ and the family’s return was voluntary.

The news comes shortly after a memorandum of understanding agreed between UNHCR and Bangladesh over repatriation. The intention is that it would be “safe, voluntary and dignified … in line with international standards.”

The UN refugee agency also said that,

‘conditions in Myanmar are not yet conducive for returns to be safe, dignified and sustainable. The responsibility for creating such conditions remains with the Myanmar authorities, and these must go beyond the preparation of physical infrastructure to facilitate logistical arrangements.’

Xchange is currently researching the views of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh on repatriation. Watch this space for upcoming news and insights into this project. We couldn’t do this without you, please help us on our mission by donating here.


UN disputes Myanmar Rohingya repatriation claim; CNN;

Bangladesh rejects Myanmar claim that Rohingya family was repatriated; BBC News;

First Rohingya Muslim families return to Myanmar despite UN saying conditions are ‘not yet safe, dignified or sustainable’; Independent;

Myanmar’s first Rohingya repatriation ‘staged’, rights groups say; Al Jazeera;