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UN: Myanmar Not Yet Safe for Repatriations

UN: Myanmar Not Yet Safe for RepatriationsUN: Myanmar Not Yet Safe for Repatriations

Myanmar has accepted what appears to be the first five among some 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled military-led violence against the minority group, even though the United Nations says it is not yet safe for them to return home.

A government statement said Saturday that five members of a family returned to western Rakhine state from a refugee camp across the border in Bangladesh, ABC News reported.

The statement said authorities determined whether they had lived in the country and provided them with a national verification card—a form of ID that does not mean citizenship that Rohingya have been denied in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they have faced persecution for decades.

It said the family was staying temporarily with relatives in Maungdaw town, the administrative center close to the border.

The statement did not say if any more repatriations are being planned. Bangladesh has given Myanmar a list of more than 8,000 refugees to begin the repatriation, but it has been further delayed by a complicated verification process.

The two countries agreed in December to begin repatriating them in January, but they were delayed by concerns among aid workers and Rohingya that they would be forced to return and face unsafe conditions in Myanmar.

Hundreds of Rohingya were reportedly killed in the recent violence, and many houses and villages burned to the ground. The United Nations have described the army crackdown as “ethnic cleansing.”

On Friday, the UN refugee agency and Bangladesh finalized a memorandum of understanding that describes the repatriation process as “safe, voluntary and dignified ... in line with international standards.”

UNHCR said it “considers that conditions in Myanmar are not yet conducive for returns to be safe, dignified, and sustainable. The responsibility for creating such conditions remains with the Myanmar authorities, and these must go beyond the preparation of physical infrastructure to facilitate logistical arrangements.”

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