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Bangladesh Attempts to Revoke Rohingya 'Refugee' Status

Rohingya Today
November 11, 2018

Cox's Bazaar — Bangladesh attempts to strip UNHCR-registered Rohingya refugees of their 'Refugee' Status, triggering them to go on 'Ration Strike' since November 1 out of fear of forced repatriation to Myanmar, refugees say.

Approximately 250,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh to escape atrocity crimes committed by the Myanmar armed forces under 'Operation Pyi Thayar' in 1991 and 1992, apart from about one million Rohingya genocide survivors who have fled Myanmar to seek refuge in Bangladesh in last two years. In 1993, a bilateral agreement made Bangladesh and Myanmar to repatriate the survivors/refugees (without their participation).

As the refugees resisted the forced repatriation to Myanmar, Bangladesh used FORCE. The refugees were beaten, tortured, arrested and detained by the Bangladesh authorities. Most of them were forced to return to Myanmar in years following 1995.

Some 25,000 refugees who showed resilience and resisted the forced repatriation were registered by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) as Refugees. They have been taking refuge in two camps, Nayapara and Kutupalong, since then. The number of refugees increased to 38,000 as the UNHCR newly registered ‘unregistered relatives’ of ‘the registered refugees’ in 2005.

Bangladesh, UNHCR and Forced Repatriation

The government of Bangladesh have, since 1st November (this year), been attempting to reduce the status of these (old) registered refugees to that of Genocide Survivors who have sought refuge since 2016 and were merely recognized as 'Displaced' Persons.

"We demanded the Bangladesh authorities to register new arrival of genocide survivors as refugees. They replied that they wouldn't do that. Instead, they are attempting to revoke our refugee status.

"They are planning to force us back to the killing fields in Myanmar, an action which will not only put security to our lives in jeopardy but also put our future in further limbo," said Mohammed Islam (not real name), a refugee in Kutupalong registered-refugee camps.

It has further been reported that as registered refugees in the two camps are refusing to produce their documents before the Bangladesh authorities in fear of unwanted changes, the Bangladesh forces have begun harassing and beating them.

Over the last two months, UNHCR has secretly changed the title of the Family Sheets of the registered refugees, from MCR (Master Registration Card) to FCN (Family Count Number), and categorized them (the family sheets) under '128' ─ a registration code number applied to the new arrival of refugees ─ and hence, downgrading their recognized refugee status. Similarly, WFP (World Food Programme) has changed the name of the Refugees' Ration Cards from 'Food Card' to 'Assistance Card.'

Rohingya Refugees Resist Forced Repatriation

After the Bangladesh authorities began coercing the (registered) refugees to agree to their plan (of repatriation) on November 1, they (the refugees) wrote to UNHCR Sub-office in Cox's Bazaar. However, due to the UNHCR staffs at the Office being local Bangladeshis, no response has been made and their effort to find a solution was unsuccessful, according to the refugees.

The refugees in Kutupalong and Nayapara Camps have gone on 'Ration Strike' as both Bangladesh and UNHCR has remained largely irresponsive. Meanwhile, a refugee in the camp said that they have been trying to reach out to UNHCR Head-office in Dhaka.

"We know and there are evidences that Genocide is still going on in Myanmar. We fear of getting killed. And so, after having spent 28 years in dismal condition as refugees, we can't return there without 'International Protection' and equal human rights are restored for us.

"As refugees we were given three options: to return to Myanmar if we feel safe, live in Bangladesh by integrating in the local societies and if none of them is possible, then we are to be resettled to third countries. Therefore, we request the concerned international authorities to find a durable solution for us as urgently as possible," said a refugee going by the name ‘Shomsul Alam.’

Rohingya Refugees Prefer Death over Repatriation to Myanmar

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, both old registered and new arrivals alike, unanimously say that they prefer death or getting killed in Bangladesh over being forced to return to Myanmar when the Genocide is still going on there.

One woman genocide survivor whose name is in the list of the forced repatriation said “I don’t even know how my name appeared in the list. I didn’t give consent for that.

We prefer death over here. Or somebody kill us here. At least we will get proper funerals. Over there, they behave like animals to us. They are so cruel to us. We won’t there until there is a protection, justice and all other equal rights for us.”

On September 2, a 48-year-old genocide survivor, Nur Kasim, seeking refuge in ‘Nurali Pura’ camps near ‘Shal Bagan’, fell ill over the fears of forced repatriation to Myanmar and died after a while apparently from Cardiac Arrest. Similarly, on November 4, another 68-year-old Genocide survivor, Dil Mohammed, attempted suicide in Unci-Parang makeshift camps after hearing that he was enlisted for the forced repatriation.

Dr. Maung Zarni, a human rights activist and Burmese (Myanmar) Scholar, has recently remarked that Bangladesh is committing an Act of Refoulement by forcibly repatriating the Rohingya genocide survivors who have legitimate rights to seek refugee status. And therefore, it also makes Bangladesh complicit in Myanmar's Genocide of Rohingya.

[Report by Zakir Ahmed; Edited by M.S. Anwar]

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