Tensions mount in Rohingya camps ahead of planned relocation to Myanmar

Rohingya refugee children who are among those being relocated from a camp near the Bangladesh Myanmar border wait at the Balukhali refugee camp, 50 kilometers (32 miles) from, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Sunday. (AP)
Updated 21 January 2018
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Tensions mount in Rohingya camps ahead of planned relocation to Myanmar

GUNGDUM: Tensions mounted on Sunday at refugee camps in Bangladesh holding hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims over an operation to send them back to Myanmar, from where they have fled following a military crackdown.
Dozens of refugees stood holding cloth banners opposing their transfer as UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee visited camps along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border over the weekend. Some refugee leaders said Bangladesh military officials had threatened to seize their food ration cards if they did not return.
Under an agreement signed last week, Myanmar is set to receive Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh at two reception centers and a temporary camp near their common border starting on Tuesday and continuing over the next two years.
The refugees refuse to go back unless their safety can be guaranteed and Myanmars grant their demands to be given citizenship and inclusion in a list of recognized ethnic minorities. They are also asking that their homes, mosques and schools that were burned down or damaged in the military operation be rebuilt.
Over 655,500 Muslim Rohingya fled to Bangladesh after the Myanmar military cracked down in the northern part of Rakhine state in response to militant attacks on security forces on Aug. 25. The UN described the operation as ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, which Myanmar denies.
Rohingya elders told Reuters that Bangladeshi army officials have called or met them over the last two days, asking them to prepare lists of families from their camps for repatriation. Four of them said they were among more than 70 camp leaders – representing thousands of refugees – who met army officers at the Gungdum camp on Saturday.
“When we said we cannot provide the lists because people are not ready to return, they asked us to bring their WP cards,” said Musa, a leader at the Gungdum camp, referring to relief cards provided by the UN’s World Food Programme.
Rashedul Hasan, a spokesman for the Bangladesh army, said he was not aware of army men threatening to take away food cards.
Hundreds of refugees queue up at relief centers across the camps each morning to collect food using the cards. These centers are managed by the Bangladesh army.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has repeatedly said Rohingya returns need to be voluntary.
“UNHCR has not been part of discussions (on repatriation) to date, but has offered support to engage in the process to ensure that the voices of refugees are heard,” Caroline Gluck, a senior protection officer for the agency, said by email on Saturday.
“The pace of returns should be determined by the refugees themselves.”


May to tell British parliament Brexit ‘95 percent’ settled, faces party mutiny

Updated 22 October 2018
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May to tell British parliament Brexit ‘95 percent’ settled, faces party mutiny

  • ‘Ninety-five percent of the Withdrawal Agreement and its protocols are now settled,’ according to a partial transcript released by her office
  • Talks have stalled over how to stop its land frontier with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, becoming a hard border again

LONDON: Prime Minister Theresa May will tell Britain’s parliament on Monday that Brexit negotiations are “95 percent” complete but that she cannot accept the European Union’s Northern Ireland border proposals — as she faces down an increasingly mutinous faction within her own party.
May has been on the receiving end of a furious backlash from Brexit hardliners in her own party after indicating at an EU summit last week that she could accept a longer post-divorce implementation phase than previously envisaged.
Her shift aimed to break an impasse in negotiations between London and Brussels over how to keep the Irish border open after Brexit, by giving the two sides more time to agree their future relationship.
But it infuriated Brexiteer colleagues who fear remaining tied to the EU for years after Britain’s formal departure next March.
Several Sunday newspapers said rebellious MPs were preparing a fresh bid to topple her leadership this week, many carrying colorful off-record quotes from the plotters.
In a bid to calm passions, May will address MPs in the House of Commons on Monday where she will say the divorce deal with Brussels is nearly done.
“Ninety-five percent of the Withdrawal Agreement and its protocols are now settled,” she will tell parliamentarians, according to a partial transcript released by her office late Sunday.
Highlighting progress in the year-long talks, she will say agreements have now been reached across a broad range of issues including with Spain on the status of the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar, and with Cyprus on the UK’s military bases there.
“We have broad agreement on the structure and scope of the future relationship, with important progress made on issues like security, transport and services,” she will say.
But on Ireland she will seek to reassure MPs in her own party that she will not bow to the EU’s current proposals.
“As I set out last week, the original backstop proposal from the EU was one we could not accept, as it would mean creating a customs border down the Irish Sea and breaking up the integrity of the UK,” she will say.
“I do not believe that any UK Prime Minister could ever accept this. And I certainly will not.”
The so-called backstop is a proposal to keep either Northern Ireland or all of Britain in a customs union should future trade talks end in deadlock.
Talks have stalled over how to stop its land frontier with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, becoming a hard border again.
London believes customs and other checks can be avoided through a new trade agreement with Brussels, but accepts the need for a fallback plan until that deal is agreed.
However, the two sides have so far been unable to settle the terms of this so-called backstop.
France’s Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau told the BBC Sunday that the bloc needs “definitive answers, or at least no temporary measures which disappear and we don’t know what to do afterwards.”
Despite voting in favor of a split from Europe, the British public remain deeply polarized on Brexit.
On Saturday more than half a million anti-Brexit protesters hit the streets of London, the largest demonstration since 750,000 people showed up against the Iraq war in 2003.