A Burmese immigration officer delivers an identification document to a child of a family of five rohinyas on April 14, 2018 in the repatriation camp in the town of Taungpyoletwei, near the border with Bangladesh
A first family of the hundreds of thousands of people from the minority of Rohingya Muslims who took refuge in Bangladesh to flee the violence in Burma in 2017 returned to the country, the Burmese government announced on Saturday.
„The five members of the family (…) returned to the repatriation camp in the town of Taungpyoletwei, in Rakhin State this morning,“ the government said in a statement on Facebook’s Information Committee.
The government said in the statement that the family had been „temporarily“ sent to the town of Maungdaw, where they had relatives. This town, located next to the Naf River, which marks the border between the two countries, is at the epicenter of the crisis.
Since August of last year, more than 670,000 rohinyas fled to Bangladesh to escape the violence, which the UN called an „ethnic cleansing“ orchestrated by the Burmese army.
The government „is going to verify with them what are the difficulties that people who have suffered due to the conflicts find“ to „improve the repatriation process“.
The authorities did not specify if this first symbolic return will be followed by others.
The issue of the return of refugees is followed closely by the international community and the NGOs have warned of the lack of preparedness of Burma, which should have built temporary camps for the Rohingya, as many of them suffered the burning of their homes in the violence.
To these difficulties is added discrimination against this group in Burma, fueled by Buddhist nationalism.
– „The conditions are not conducive“ –
The statement describes the family as „Muslim“, in line with the government’s policy of not using the word „rohinyá“, which the authorities do not recognize as an ethnic group.
The authorities determined „if they had lived there before“ and gave them a national verification card, a type of identity card that does not confer citizenship and that Rohinyá leaders reject as they claim to have full rights.
The Rohinyas, of Muslim confession, are the target of a strong Buddhist movement in Burma, which considers them a threat to the predominance of their religion in the country.
The civil government of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi seems to be prey to this antirohinyá hatred, exploited for decades by the Burmese military junta.
The Rohinyas are the largest stateless population in the world, after they were deprived of having Burmese nationality in 1982.
Most of the original communities were burned during the outbreak of violence, said Doctors Without Borders, which estimated that in the first month of the crisis at least 6,700 people died.
The Burmese authorities have razed many of the remains of the villages, which has raised alarms among organizations that defend civil rights, which have indicated that they could be seeking to erase the evidence and links of the Rohina with the country.
After visiting the state of Rakhin this month, Ursula Mueller, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told AFP that „right now, the conditions are not conducive to a voluntary, dignified and sustainable return.“
The official said that Burma has to address critical issues such as „freedom of movement, social cohesion, the source of livelihood and access to services.“