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.


Africa’s youngest billionaire free 9 days after abduction

Updated 8 min 24 sec ago
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Africa’s youngest billionaire free 9 days after abduction

  • Dar es Salaam Regional Police Chief Lazaro Mambosasa confirmed the release and said authorities continue to investigate
  • Forbes magazine in 2016 put Dewji's wealth at $1.5 billion

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania: The man described as Africa's youngest billionaire said Saturday he is free more than a week after his abduction from a luxury hotel in Tanzania's commercial capital, while police suggested his captors came from South Africa.
"I thank Allah that I have returned home safely," said a statement released by the 43-year-old Mohammed Dewji's foundation. It did not give details about the Oct. 11 abduction or what led to his release but thanked police for working for his safe return.
Dar es Salaam Regional Police Chief Lazaro Mambosasa confirmed the release and said authorities continue to investigate. There was no mention of a ransom being paid.
"We got information that the abductors used the same car that was used to seize him at the Colosseum Hotel and dumped him at gymkhana (sports facility) grounds," Mambosasa said. "We found him there physically fit, and we suspect that the abductors are South Africans because he said they were communicating in one of the vernacular from that country."
Environment Minister January Makamba, in a statement posted on Twitter, said he had spoken with Dewji and "he's the usual Mo. So he is okay."
Dewji, while arriving at the hotel for a workout, had been seized by two masked gunmen who fired into the air before driving away. Regional authorities said two white men were seen on surveillance video and quickly tightened controls at border posts and airports.
Forbes magazine in 2016 put Dewji's wealth at $1.5 billion.