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Rohingya still fleeing Myanmar despite repatriation deal


Rohingya Muslim refugees bury the body of an elderly woman who died from an un-diagnosed illness on a hillside in the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar on November 26, 2017. Rohingya refugees who return to Myanmar from Bangladesh following a repatriation agreement will initially live in temporary shelters or camps, Dhaka said November 25, a day after the UN raised concern for their safety when they go back. The United Nations says more than 620,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since August and now live in squalor in the world’s largest refugee camp after a military crackdown in Myanmar that the UN and Washington have said clearly constitutes “ethnic cleansing”. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES

Rohingya are still fleeing into Bangladesh even after an agreement was signed with Myanmar to repatriate hundreds of thousands of the Muslim minority displaced along the border, officials said Monday.

The arrangement struck by the neighbours on Thursday raised the prospect of at least 700,000 Rohingya Muslims living in overcrowded camps in southeastern Bangladesh being returned to Myanmar.

But at least 3,000 refugees have crossed since then, the United Nations said in its latest report on the crisis, with guards at check-posts along the frontier also reporting a largely uninterrupted flow of newcomers.


“The number of arrivals has declined, but it has not stopped,” Bangladesh border guard commander Lieutenant Colonel S.M. Ariful Islam told AFP.

Islam said at least 400 refugees had passed by guards under his command along the border with Myanmar since the agreement was signed.

An estimated 624,000 Rohingya have fled a military crackdown in Myanmar since August described by UN and US authorities as ethnic cleansing.

The repatriation agreement applies to Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh who fled Myanmar in two major outbreaks of violence since October 2016.

It does not extend to an estimated 200,000 Rohingya refugees who were living in Bangladesh prior to that date.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR has raised concerns over the terms of the arrangement, saying conditions for the safe return of the Rohingya were not yet in place.

Bangladesh said at the weekend those returned would initially live in temporary shelters or camps.

Rohingya leaders have said they will not return to Myanmar unless they are recognised as citizens with full rights and ensured protection from violence.

Myanmar does no recognise the Rohingya, denying them citizenship and restricting their movement.

The UNHCR says any repatriation deal must include “the informed consent of refugees”.

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