Report: Myanmar unsafe for Rohingya return

Report: Myanmar unsafe for Rohingya return

By Luke Vargas   
A refugee camp for Rohingya Muslims in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. July 6, 2018. Flickr photo: Mohammad Tauheed
A refugee camp for Rohingya Muslims in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. July 6, 2018. Flickr photo: Mohammad Tauheed

Refugees International says Rohingya fleeing Myanmar report that conditions have not improved since a campaign of ethnic cleansing in 2017.

UNITED NATIONS — Conditions in Myanmar remain fundamentally unsafe for the return of Rohingya Muslims who fled the country after what the U.N. called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” that began in 2017.

That’s according to a new report by the advocacy group Refugees International, which sent researchers — including senior advocate for human rights Daniel Sullivan — to interview Rohingya still escaping to neighboring Bangladesh as recently as this month.

“What the people who are coming across still today were telling me is, it’s not just that things haven’t been getting better to the point where people can return home, but actually the government of Myanmar is pursuing policies that are actively making things worse.”

Among these measures is a cynical attempt to grant the Rohingya a form of second-class citizenship through the issuance of a national ID card.

Human rights experts have long criticized Myanmar for refusing to grant citizenship to more than 1 million Rohingya in the country, making them one of the world’s largest stateless populations, and one that enjoys no formal rights or protections in the predominantly Buddhist country.

“This National Verification Card process doesn’t allow Rohingya to list themselves as Rohingya, so it’s effectively asking them to give up their ethnic identity in order to have a chance to become citizens.”

“The people I talked to who had recently arrived, some of them said they’d been forced to take these National Verification Cards, and even once they had them it didn’t change their lives at all — they still were restricted in their freedom of movement or to pursue livelihoods. What the Rohingya believe is that this is just another step towards making sure they’ll never get citizenship.”

Sullivan said he’s under no illusion that Myanmar will clean up its act overnight, but he said foreign pressure can help enforce red lines around certain government behavior.

“The government is sensitive to the international community. The international community just needs to not be duped by the idea that just because they say there’s a process for citizenship, that it’s actually a credible process.”

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