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Rohingya refugee repatriation to start on 22 January

Rohingya refugees who fled from Burma wait to be let through by Bangladeshi border guards after crossing the border in Palang Khali, Bangladesh, on 16 October 2017. (Photo: Reuters)

On 22 January 2018, Burma will begin repatriating those families who fled from Rakhine State to Bangladesh during recent security operations, according to Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Dr. Win Myat Aye.

The minister made the announcement following talks yesterday in Naypyidaw between the government and representatives of Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC).

Win Myat Aye said a group of 450 Hindu refugees will be allowed back across the border to Burma on 22 January as the first step in the repatriation process.

A refugee camp has been set up at Taungpyoleiwei in northwestern Rakhine State for those returning overland from Bangladesh, while a second camp has been erected in Ngakhuya, Maungdaw Township, for those returning by sea or waterways.

Burma’s state media reported that, at yesterday’s meeting in the Burmese capital, the chairman of the MNHRC urged Win Myat Aye to ensure the repatriation process is carried out in a transparent manner.

MNHRC members paid a visit to Maungdaw from 11-15 December to gauge the current situation, and subsequently submitted their findings to the president.

The UN estimates that over 600,000 persons – the vast majority being Rohingya Muslims – fled in fear of reprisals during a military campaign aimed at rooting out insurgents and their supporters following a deadly attack by Rohingya militants on police and army posts on 25 August.

The UN’s refugee agency UNHCR has offered to assist in the refugee repatriation efforts. Referring to the exodus as “the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world” just three weeks ago, the agency’s deputy high commissioner Kelly Clements said, “Conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State are not in place to enable a safe and sustainable return … refugees are still fleeing.”

Read more: Mass repatriation of Rohingya refugees seen as easier said than done