Myanmar on Thursday pledged safe repatriation of Rohingya from Bangladesh as soon as possible despite accusations of activists claiming the government was intentionally blocking aid for refugees facing dire food shortage in Rakhine state, according to Anadolu Agency.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation deal last November, but Dhaka claims not a single refugee has returned.
The UN maintains the Myanmar government has been unable to assure safe return for the refugees, and remaining houses in entire villages have been razed to the ground in the name of development works, the Ankara-based agency said.
On Thursday, Myanmar minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Win Myat Aye, who recently visited the refugee camps in Bangladesh, said the government was working hard for the safe, dignified and voluntary return of refugees who provide evidence of origin in the country.
“Firstly, we would like to reiterate that we are not accepting those who failed to present required evidences,” Win Myat Aye told the media, it added.
About his two-day visit to Bangladesh earlier this month, he said he met Rohingyas in Bangladesh’s Cox Bazar.
“For the repatriation, the first step for displaced people is to fill the form. But I got surprised that they have not received any form to be filled although we already sent the forms since months ago,” he said.
“This is totally unexpected for us,” he told the journalists and international diplomats in Yangon.
He claimed all refugees he met in the camps said they wanted to return to Myanmar, but said the problem is citizenship.
“They told me that they want citizenship when they come back. So, we explained to them about the citizenship verification process,” he said.
- Myanmar 'intentionally' blocks aid
“We have been preparing for the safe return for months, and now we are ready. And we would like to start repatriation as soon as possible as the monsoon is coming,” he said.
However, he admitted that more time would be needed to verify the people as the forms sent back by Bangladeshi government had not been filled completely.
"We had seen how they are living in poor condition. So, we would like to take them back as soon as possible," the minister said.
Meanwhile, a UK-based activist group accused the government of intentional blocking aid for remaining Rohingya villagers in the area.
In a statement on Thursday, the Burma Human Rights Network said: “Those who remained have had limited access to aid as restrictions on NGOs and charities remained in many areas following the fighting.
“While the Red Cross has been given access to some of these areas others remain in dire need of food and medical aid.”
BHRN executive director Kyaw Win told Anadolu Agency that no one would voluntarily return from Bangladesh to Myanmar at the moment.
“How can the return be dignified and safe?” he asked.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 201, the agency said.
Since 25 Aug, 2017, some 750,000 refugees, mostly children and women, fled Myanmar when Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to the UN. At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine state from 25 Aug to 24 Sept, according to Doctors Without Borders.
In a report published on 12 Dec, the global humanitarian organisation said the deaths of 71.7 per cent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of 5.