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November 4, 2018

Open cruelty


November 4, 2018

With the Rohingya set to be sent back to the killing fields of Myanmar, it is stunning how little difference a UN declaration that a genocide was committed against them has made. Myanmar and Bangladesh have agreed to start repatriating Rohingya refugees next month. A list of 8,000 Rohingya refugees has been processed by the Myanmar government and their return has been ‘approved’. Only a week ago, UN investigators had said that the genocide had not stopped yet. On the ground, news reports have confirmed that Myanmar has been demolishing areas where the Rohingya used to live. New homes have been built in their place for non-Rohingya inhabitants. The demolitions are also the destruction of evidence that could be used in any future tribunal. It is clear that the Rohingya are not wanted – and any that return to Myanmar are at risk of losing their lives.

There is no justification for Bangladesh’s repatriation agreement with Myanmar. The fate of almost 720,000 Rohingya refugees is going to be to return to a country where they were persecuted, raped, butchered and burnt alive. The UN has called for Myanmar’s military leadership to be prosecuted for genocide. Those who committed the genocide are still in their respective positions. If the Rohingya begin to be repatriated, this will no doubt be one of the greatest injustices that the world has allowed on its watch in the last two centuries. Life for the Rohingya is already tough in the makeshift refugee camps in Bangladesh. Next month, some of them are likely to find themselves back in Myanmar in ‘open-air prisons’, facing an uncertain future, and likely to flee again from terrifying conditions.

Myanmar claims that around 100 Rohingya have returned. One can only wonder who the Myanmar government is telling this story to. There are few who genuinely believe the country is safe for the Rohingya community. Bangladesh’s decision is a cynical one that mirrors the global atmosphere around migrant populations. This is not the first time a date has been set for repatriation. A previous attempt, in November 2017, hit insurmountable obstacles. A year on, Rohingya living in the camps have the same fundamental questions about their safety if they return. The only way to ensure a safe return for the Rohingya is for the world to speak up against the tactics used by the Myanmar military leadership. The Rohingya cannot be sent back to the same country that is massacring them.

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