About 1 million Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh want to return to their homeland of Myanmar’s Rakhine State. The refugees deserve much more than a flawed “repatriation pilot project
” being arranged by Chinese and Myanmar authorities — without the involvement of the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR – that puts them between a rock and a hard place. As part of the so-called pilot project, on Wednesday, officials from Myanmar’s junta interviewed 90 Rohingya men and women for possible repatriation.
The refugees, including about 740,000 who fled since the brutal military crackdowns of August 2017, have faced many trials and tribulations in the past five years. They have been plagued by poor living conditions and a persistent lack of employment and educational opportunities.
Two massive fires — one of which was reportedly started by militant groups
to “dominate” the overcrowded camps — have killed 15 Rohingya and left many people homeless. As new funding from the international community has failed to come in, the refugees barely fill their stomachs with food rations valued at US$0.27
The so-called pilot mediated by China “would see some 1,140 Rohingya refugees returned to Myanmar,” reports The Diplomat
. This planned move does not assure them, however, of better living conditions. UNHCR spokeswoman Regina De La Portilla told BenarNews
that “In UNHCR’s assessment, conditions in Rakhine State are currently not conducive to the sustainable return of Rohingya refugees.”
Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing, who was head of the armed forces during the 2017 crackdown, has dismissed the Rohingya identity as “imaginary
”. The Rohingya are widely viewed in Myanmar as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. They are denied citizenship and subject to restrictions on movement, their health care, and education.Tun Khin
, president of Burmese Rohingya Organization UK, told Reuters: “Rohingya refugees face an impossible choice. Stay in terrible conditions in refugee camps where rations are being cut, or return to their home country where genocidal policies continue.”