Myanmar: Unregistered Rohingya migrants' fate uncertain
By Joshua Carroll
August 14, 2015
Rights group warns that unregistered Muslim Rohingya rescued from abandoned people smuggling boats by Myanmar may be detained 'indefinitely'
YANGON, Myanmar -- A rights group warned Wednesday that more than 50 Rohingya Muslims rescued from abandoned people smuggling boats by Myanmar may be detained “indefinitely” because they had been living as unregistered refugees in Bangladesh and are not on official records in Myanmar.
Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project - an NGO that monitors the plight of Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya - told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday that female and child Rohingya were among those still being held by Border Guard Police in Taung Pyo, Rakhine state, after being rescued more than two months ago.
Over 800 boat people were rescued by Myanmar’s navy in two separate incidents in late May. Just over 500 of those have been declared citizens of neighboring Bangladesh and repatriated following a verification process.
The Myanmar government officially denies the existence of the Rohingya ethnic minority and refuses them citizenship, and it is unclear how the authorities will deal with the Rohingya among those rescued.
“As they were unregistered refugees in Bangladesh, they will be excluded from the verification and repatriation process by Bangladesh and are not recorded in villages in Rakhine state either,” Lewa said.
“Their fate is uncertain and they may be detained indefinitely."
The Rohingya were among thousands left to fend for themselves at sea after a crackdown by Thai authorities led to a crisis in which scared human trafficking gangs who had been shipping the migrants to holding camps in the country's south abandoned their boats.
Myanmar has been blamed as the root cause of the crisis because its treatment of the Rohingya has forced tens of thousands to flee coastal Rakhine by sea after being targeted in communal violence in 2012.
The government has denied responsibility, instead blaming the traffickers.
Lewa added that in Thailand, where many smuggling boats have come ashore, over 400 Rohingya faced a similar fate to the 50 detained in Rakhine.
“Thailand does not register them as refugees and Myanmar has so far never re-admitted any Rohingya.”
She added that Bangladeshis found by Myanmar’s navy were being treated better than in previous cases.
“I certainly appreciate the speed by which Bangladesh authorities have conducted their verification process this year as, in past years, Bangladeshi boat people arrested remained in immigration detention for a year or more until the repatriation process was completed.”