An immigration official from the Myanmar government has said two of the centres to receive and process returning Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh are in the final stages of completion before Myanmar starts the repatriation process in 19 days.
Myint Kyaing, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, and Population, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) Myanmar Service on Tuesday that the centres in Taung Pyo Let Wae village have been completed, and the other in Nga Khu Ya village will be finished next week.
Myanmar’s Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Win Myat Aye previously said Myanmar will start repatriation of Rohinyga refugees on January 22.
He said all groups tasked with checking the Rohingyas and their documents are all in place.
The Rohingya refugees must be able to prove prior residency in Myanmar and show that they left the country after October 9, 2016, to be readmitted to the country.
However, it is still unclear where the Rohingyas stand about returning to Myanmar.
Many of their villages in Rakhine State have been burned down; many of them have told the UN investigators that they suffered rapes, killings, and other atrocities at the hands of the Myanmar military, a crackdown that has been termed by the UN as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
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Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an agreement on November 23 last year to begin repatriating some of the 655,000 Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh following a crackdown by the Myanmar military which began on August 25.
Myanmar and Bangladesh — where about 1 million Rohingya refugees live, including 350,000-400,000 who fled previous waves of repression in Myanmar — agreed on December 19 to form a working group to oversee the voluntary repatriation of the Rohingya refugees who are living in sprawling settlement camps in Cox’s Bazar and to resettle them in northern Rakhine State.
‘Ready to accept them back’
The UN and other rights groups have warned against a hasty return of the Rohingyas to Myanmar. Many of the Rohingyas left in haste to escape the violence and hence may not be able to produce proof of residency of other important documents when returning to Myanmar.
They also warn of continued repression and discrimination the returning Rohingyas will face, where they are considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and are denied access to basic services.
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But Myint Kyaing, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, and Population, said even if the returning refugees do not have any documents, they just need to fill out forms and provide background information, adding that officials have the necessary documents to establish prior residency of those who wish to return.
Last week, Win Myat Aye told RFA that officials in northern Rakhine State would repatriate the Rohingya refugees only during the daytime because of an extended dawn-to-dusk curfew in Maungdaw Township.
Returning refugees who are processed at the two reception centres must adhere to the curfew and not go outside after 6pm, he said.