First Rohingya family repatriated to Myanmar

UN Security Council envoys to visit Bangladesh Myanmar

A foreign ministry official said, "There is no scope to call it repatriation ... it's a total hoax because the family which the Myanmar authorities claimed to have been repatriated was not within the territory of Bangladesh". The United States and the United Nations have described the situation as ethnic cleansing.

Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed a repatriation plan in January but its start has been repeatedly delayed as both sides blame the other for lack of preparation.

In the early hours of Saturday, Akhtar Alam, a Rohingya man, had reportedly returned to Myanmar from Bangladesh with his 5-member family without notifying anyone.

"The five members of a family... came back to Taungpyoletwei town repatriation camp in Rakhine state this morning". "We're trying to know about it", he told reporters apparently expressing displeasure over the claim through worldwide media.

It said that the family had been sent to stay "temporarily" with relatives in Rakhine state's Maungdaw town after "finishing the repatriation process".

"We can overcome many difficulties we are facing", he told reporters after a meeting with Bangladeshi officials.

Myanmar officials could not be reached for further details and the post did not say whether any more returns were expected soon.

An estimated 687,000 Rohingya are now living in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

The move comes despite warnings from the United Nations and other rights groups that a mass repatriation of Rohingya would be premature, as Myanmar has yet to address the systematic legal discrimination and persecution the minority has faced for decades.

Most Burmese consider the Rohingya as unwanted immigrants from Bangladesh, and the army refers to them as "Bengalis".

Andrea Giorgetta from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) criticised the repatriation announcement as "a public relations exercise in an attempt to deflect attention from the need for accountability for crimes committed in Rakhine state". They're not officially considered citizens of any country and are largely shunned by Myanmar's mostly Buddhist population.

Photos released by Myanmar's State Counselor Information Committee seemed to show the Rohingya family receiving check-ups, food, mosquito netting and, somewhat controversially, national verification cards.

"Right now, the conditions are not conducive to a voluntary, dignified and sustainable return", Ursula Mueller, assistant secretary general for the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told AFP earlier this month after a visit to Rakhine.

Many refugees say they fear a repeat of the persecution that forced them off their lands if they go back under the repatriation deal, and of being placed in temporary transit camps for an unknown period of time as they await new housing.

Thousands of Rohingya villages were burnt, and according to the Doctors without Borders, some 6,700 Rohingya men and women were killed in one month since a brutal military crackdown began in late August.

Myanmar authorities have since bulldozed numerous burned villages, raising alarm from rights groups who say they are erasing evidence of atrocities and obscuring the Rohingya's ties to the country.

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