The Bangladeshi government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on Sunday rejected Myanmar’s claim that it had repatriated five members of a Rohingya family, Reuters reported.
Both said neither of them had any involvement in the repatriation.
On Saturday, the Myanmar government announced in a Facebook post that a family of five had returned to the country from the border near Bangladesh, where at least 7,00,000 Rohingya who fled violence in their own country have been camping since August 2017.
In January, Myanmar and Bangladesh finalised an agreement to send back thousands of Rohingya refugees. The repatriation process was to begin on January 23. However, days later, Bangladesh said it would not start sending back Rohingya Muslim refugees. Officials said several issues remained unresolved and that transit camps in Myanmar where the refugees were to be housed were not yet ready.
On Saturday, even as the Myanmar government announced that the first family had been housed at a newly built repatriation centre, the Bangladeshi government’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Abul Kalam said the family in question used to live in no man’s land between the two countries. Calling it “propaganda”, Kalam said Myanmar authorities had them re-enter their territory and took them to the repatriation centre.
“This is in no way a repatriation, rather it is propaganda,” Kalam told Reuters. “They were not under our jurisdiction, therefore we cannot confirm whether there would be more people waiting to go back [to Myanmar],” he told AFP.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees also said in a statement on Sunday that it had no direct knowledge of the case and was not asked to be involved in the process.
Photographs accompanying the Myanmar government’s social media post showed five individuals receiving identification cards, while the statement referred to the family as “Muslims”, Al Jazeera reported.
So far, the family has not spoken to any news agency, while a spokesperson for Myanmar, Zaw Htay, maintained it was “not propaganda”, and that the family decided to come back on their own. “We are taking care of them,” he said.