Aid groups urge rethink of Rohingya repatriations without safeguards

Rohingya refugees are reflected on a pond as they walk back to their shelters at Balukhali refugee camp in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia. (AFP/Munir Uz Zaman)
Updated 23 January 2018
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Aid groups urge rethink of Rohingya repatriations without safeguards

PALONG KHALI, Bangladesh: The UN refugee agency and other groups have urged a rethink of a plan to send Muslim Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar amid fears of forced repatriations without safeguards such as guaranteed citizenship after they fled to Bangladesh to escape bloodshed at home.
The calls come as Bangladesh delayed the repatriation of the largely stateless Rohingya to Myanmar that was set to begin on Tuesday, as the process of compiling and verifying the list of people to be sent back was incomplete.
“In order for the repatriation to be (done) right, to be sustainable, actually viable...you need to really address a number of issues that for the time being we have heard nothing about,” UNHCR head Filippo Grandi said in Geneva, noting that issues like citizenship had not been addressed.
More than 655,500 Muslim Rohingya fled to Bangladesh last year after the Myanmar military cracked down in the northern part of Rakhine state, amid witness reports of killings, looting and rape, in response to militant attacks on security forces on Aug. 25 last year.
Many people in Buddhist-majority Myanmar regard the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The United Nations described Myanmar’s crackdown as ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, which Myanmar denies.
Grandi said it was important to set up a monitoring mechanism in Myanmar’s Rakhine state for those returning and noted that UNHCR currently did not have the ability to move freely and perform this role there.
Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed earlier this month to complete a voluntary repatriation of the refugees in two years. Myanmar says it has set up two reception centers and a temporary camp near the border in Rakhine state to receive the first arrivals.
Human Rights Watch, a non-government organization, said on Tuesday that Bangladesh should suspend the plan entirely as it “threatens the refugees’ security and well-being.”
The plan has sparked fears in refugee camps in Bangladesh that people may be forced to return despite a lack of guarantees around their security.
One Rohingya man detained on Monday by the Bangladeshi military at the Palong Khali refugee camp following a protest against repatriations remained in police custody on Tuesday and was still being interrogated, officials said.
“He was detained for instigating violence. He is in custody for interrogation,” local police chief Abul Khayer told Reuters by telephone.
A UNHCR official said the agency plans to bring up the detention with Bangladesh during their next meeting, as the refugees were only staging a peaceful protest.


Malaysia ex-leader seeks police protection amid graft probe

Updated 4 min 37 sec ago
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Malaysia ex-leader seeks police protection amid graft probe

PEKAN, Malaysia: Malaysia’s national news agency is reporting that former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is under investigation for a massive corruption scandal, has sought police protection over concern about his family’s safety.
Najib’s long-ruling coalition suffered a shocking defeat in May 9 elections amid anger over at least $4.5 billion that investigators say was looted and laundered by Najib’s associates from a state investment fund he set up.
The new government has reopened an investigation into the case, with police raiding Najib’s properties and seizing cash, jewelry and other valuables.
A spokesman for Najib told the Bernama news agency Sunday that Najib had asked “for protection for himself and his family as they fear for their safety.” He didn’t give details.
Najib’s main aide said he couldn’t immediately comment.