Crisis Group on Rohingyas: Rakhine situation still not favourable for safe return

Myanmar has repeatedly declared that the physical infrastructure required for Rohingya repatriation is in place, but the situation in Rakhine is not favourable and no meaningful steps have been taken to ensure a safe return.

This is unlikely to change soon, while the Rohingyas would continue deserting Rakhine for Bangladesh, according to a latest Crisis Group report released yesterday.

The report says Myanmar has done little to create a favourable environment for safe repatriation and the inaction begins with denial by the government and military of the gravity of violence.

Without an acceptance of the past, there can be no meaningful steps to ensure that the abuses will not be repeated, the report observes.

In regards to Myanmar's recent claim that repatriation has started, the Crisis Group categorically said, “No refugee has returned through formal channels.”

The report says Myanmar has constructed some of the infrastructure that could support a limited return in the form of heavily guarded processing and holding camps.

But it has done little to create conditions on the ground that would give the refugees, who fled abuses that likely to constitute crimes against humanity, the confidence to return home.

Thus the refugees' return is not only increasingly unlikely but also becoming impossible in practice. The ethnic Rakhine political leaders and local communities staunchly oppose to repatriation and the government has done little to mitigate their resistance.

Absence of repatriation has become the subject of diplomatic manoeuvring by both Myanmar and Bangladesh. Realistically, however, the hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas living in Bangladesh appear unlikely to return any time soon.

"Failing to develop long-term plans for the Rohingyas' prolonged stay in Bangladesh risks worsening their suffering and propelling the crisis in a still more dangerous direction," the report says.

To prevent further deterioration, it adds the international community should continue with pushing the government to allow unfettered United Nations and aid agency access to northern Rakhine. They should press for accountability for crimes committed by the security forces and others.

Interviews of the refugees by Crisis Group in last several months suggest that the vast majority of Rohingyas want to return as soon as conditions allow. However, a few have expressed a desire to go to a third country or settle permanently in Bangladesh.

But the Rohingyas are only willing to return if they can do so in safety and with dignity.

Many refugees said they had lost everything -- home, land, cattle, businesses and savings as well as loved ones. They believe now is the time to secure their right to compensation for everything they have lost. They understand it will be difficult to obtain that right, but having no real alternatives, they are resigned to waiting and hoping.


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