On Friday (5 May) around 9 am, a 20-member Rohingya delegation and 7 government officials headed by Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Md. Mizanur Rahman went to Maungdaw region of Myanmar’s Rakhine state through Jalia Para harbor (Ghat) of Teknaf municipality to inspect if the situation is conducive for repatriation. During the visit Rohingya representatives demanded their citizenship restoration, relocation to their home soil, and guarantee for facilities like other ethnics in Myanmar.
A video of a conversation between a Rohingya delegation and Myanmar immigration officials has emerged in which a Rohingya representative tells Myanmar officials, “Rakhine State is our homeland. We will come if the Myanmar government fulfills our demands, such as restoration of Rohingya citizenship, repatriation of refugees to their own land as previously done for 1978 and 1992 refugees, ensuring facilities for Rohingyas like the other 35 ethnic groups in Myanmar, and the process of National Verification Card must be cancelled.”
In the video, Myanmar’s immigration official responded by saying that according to the 1982 Citizenship Act, every returnee must hold an NVC and stay in camps built in villages in North Maungdaw region. After necessary verification and possession of NVC, the government will decide whether they can be relocated elsewhere.
A Rohingya refugee from camp-26 said, “We urge the intervention of international community in repatriation process which is going to be started soon. Otherwise, the repatriation may not be fair.”
The process of repatriation is scheduled to start soon. Therefore, whether the environment of Rakhine State of Myanmar is suitable for repatriation, after visiting the shelter built by the Myanmar government for the Rohingyas and observing the environment in that country, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Rahman briefed the trip in a press briefing. During the briefing though he expressed satisfaction with this environment, Rohingya members of the delegation directly expressed their demands in favor of staying in their homes that had been left behind and all civil rights including citizenship.
“We will not stay in the camp built for returnees in Maungdaw. If the government doesn’t give us houses, we will build our house at our own expense. We still want to live in our own home. If we don’t get the right to go back to our home, how will we return?” a female member of the delegation asked the Myanmar officials.
The 20-member Rohingya delegation and 7 government officials returned to Bangladesh in the evening of Friday. The Rohingya representatives expressed gratitude Bangladesh government and its people for sheltering more than a million Rohingyas and even for providing them chance to see their native land.
RRRC said, “However, according to the Bangladesh-Myanmar repatriation agreement, the repatriation of Rohingyas will be voluntary, safe and dignified. No Rohingya will be forcibly repatriated.”
Earlier in March of this year, a delegation of 17 members from Myanmar came to Bangladesh via Teknaf to verify the list of Rohingyas given by Dhaka to Naypyidaw as part of the repatriation program of displaced Rohingyas. They stayed at Land Port Rest House in Teknaf for 7 consecutive days and spoke directly with 486 people from 147 Rohingya families and recorded their statements. In the morning of March 22, the delegation crossed the Naf River and returned to Myanmar. At that time, they were asked by Bangladesh to arrange for those Rohingyas who will be repatriated to see the overall environment of Rakhine before repatriation. Following this, the Rohingya delegation went to Rakhine on Friday ( 5 May).