Rohingya organisations from across the globe today demanded that the Rohingya refugees need guarantee ensuring their life and property security and peaceful coexistence with rest of the population in Myanmar before they are repatriated.
“There is no change of attitude of the Myanmar government and its military towards Rohingya; still they identify Rohingyas as recent “Bengali interlopers” from Bangladesh,” said a joint statement issued by Rohingya organisations.
Rohingyas continue entering into Bangladesh due to continuing violence and brutality against them in Arakan, says the statement that comes a day after Myanmar and Bangladesh signed terms of reference of physical arrangement for the repatriation in Nay Pyi Taw on January 16.
Earlier the UNHCR also said in a weekly assessment this month that Rohingyas who fled from the persecution of Myanmar security forces want to see a positive development including citizenship, security, and scope for enjoying their basic rights before they return to their country from Bangladesh.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which has been collecting information on Rohingya refugees’ views on return, in its weekly operational update from December 27, 2017 to January 7, 2017, on the refugee crisis said that “some refugees have also asked for reassurances about UNHCR’s involvement in the process.”
On November 23, the two countries signed a repatriation deal amid global outcry against military crackdown on the Rohingya in Rakhine that forced over 655,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh since August 25.
UN and US termed it ethnic cleansing, while rights bodies defined it as genocide.
As per the physical arrangement signed by the two countries, Myanmar will begin repatriating the Rohingyas subject to verification from January 23 and will shelter them in a transit camp before Myanmar authorities build houses for them.
“The question is how the terrified and traumatized refugees would be repatriated to Rakhine State where they experienced, witnessed and fled the genocidal brutality of Myanmar troops, Rakhine extremists and other vigilantes,” says the statement posted on the Burmese Rohingya Organisation's UK website.
Refugees are homesick, but they are unwilling to return as congenial atmosphere has not been created yet for safe and voluntary repatriation with dignity and honour, the statement said.
"The refugees should be settled in their homes. It would be worst simply moving the refugees from camps in Bangladesh to dislodgement sites in Myanmar," it said.
It is dangerous that the regime has already claimed state-ownership of Rohingyas’ land within the affected region of Northern Rakhine state, the statement added.
They placed 12 specific demands that they say are imperative for safe and voluntary repatriation of the Rohingya refugees:
1. The UNHCR, which is a mandated UN protection agency, should be involved in all process of repatriation
2. The Refugees should be allowed to put down their identity as “Rohingya”, the UN-recognized name to self-identify
3. Refugee representatives should be discussed in all process of repatriation
4. Repatriation must be fully voluntary. The refuges should be rehabilitated in their original homes and properties, with full compensation under the supervision of the UN with peace-keeping force, not to displacement sites in Myanmar
5. Demilitarized UN safe zones shall be created in Northern Rakhine State, as an interim measure, in order to guarantee security of life, property and dignity of the persecuted people, as well as to ensure confidence, faith and understanding in the minds of the heavily terrified and traumatized refugees
6. The Myanmar government must restore their full Myanmar citizenship ensuring all rights and freedoms — security of life, property, honour, dignity, freedom of religion, movement, education, marriage, employment etc. — without any infringement, restriction, and discrimination in all affairs of their national activities
7. The Myanmar government shall recognize the “Rohingya ethnicity” allowing them to peacefully co-exist in Arakan/Rakhine State as equals with their “collective rights” on par with other ethnic nationalities of the country
8. The Myanmar Citizenship Law of 1982 must be scrapped or amended aligning it with international standards and treaties to which Myanmar is State Party, including articles 7 and 8 of the Convention on the Rights of Child
9. Land is asset and means of making living. All previous land and landed properties of the refugees must be given back to them immediately
10. Necessary arrangement shall be made to try and punish all perpetrators by an international independent tribunal. The Myanmar government shall stop and prohibit all forms of racism, incitement, propaganda, hate speech, Islamophobia, decrees and directives against the Rohingyas and other Muslims
11. The Myanmar government must allow unimpeded humanitarian aids to all needy and unfettered access to the media and rights groups to Northern Rakhine state
12. The welfare of the offspring of rapes and raped women must be ensured
The signatories of the statement include:
· Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO)
· Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK)
· British Rohingya Community in UK
· Burmese Rohingya Community in Denmark
· Burmese Rohingya Association Japan (BRAJ)
· Rohingya Advocacy Network in Japan
· Burmese Rohingya Community Australia (BRCA)
· Burmese Rohingya Association in Queensland-Australia (BRAQA)
· Canadian Burmese Rohingya Organisation
· European Rohingya Council (ERC)
· Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation in Malaysia(MERHROM)
· Rohingya American Society
· Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee
· Rohingya Community in Germany
· Rohingya Community in Switzerland
· Rohingya Community in Finland
· Rohingya Community in Italy
· Rohingya Community in Sweden
· Rohingya Organisation Norway
· Rohingya Society Malaysia (RSM)
· Rohingya Society Netherlands