News ID: 208145
Published: 0328 GMT January 15, 2018

Myanmar says building camp for 30,000 Rohingya refugees

Myanmar says building camp for 30,000 Rohingya refugees

Myanmar is building a camp to temporarily house 30,000 Rohingya Muslims targeted for repatriation after fleeing violence in Rakhine state, state media reported on Monday, as Myanmar and Bangladesh meet to discuss how to implement a repatriation deal.

More than 650,000 Rohingya have headed across the border to Bangladesh since Myanmar’s Army launched a crackdown on August 25, 2017, Reuters wrote.

The crackdown has been described by the United States and UN as ethnic cleansing, which Myanmar repeatedly rejects.

Officials from Myanmar and Bangladesh met in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyitaw on Monday to discuss a repatriation deal signed on November 23.

The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said a camp in Hla Po Khaung in northern Rakhine will be a temporary transition camp for people who are to be “accepted systematically” for repatriation.

“The 124-acre Hla Po Khaung will accommodate about 30,000 people in its 625 buildings,” the newspaper said, adding that some 100 buildings will be completed by end of January.

Aung Tun Thet, chief coordinator of Myanmar’s Union Enterprises for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development, said that the camp in Hla Po Khaung will be a “transition place” for Rohingya refugees before they are repatriated to their “place of origin” or the nearest settlement to their place of origin.

“We will try to accept all of those who are coming back to Myanmar,” he said, adding that to verify returnees’ residency, they will be sent to assessment camps in Taungpyoletwei or Ngakhuya before they are moved to the Hla Po Khaung camp.

Soe Aung, permanent secretary of Myanmar’s Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, said returnees will spend “at least one or two months” in Hla Po Khaung before their new homes are built.

It is unclear, however, how many returnees would qualify for citizenship in Myanmar. The authorities have said Rohingya Muslims could apply for citizenship if they can show their forebears lived in Myanmar. But the latest deal — like the one in 1992 — does not guarantee citizenship.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar has for years denied Rohingya citizenship, freedom of movement and access to basic services such as health care and education. They are considered illegal immigrants from mainly Muslim Bangladesh.

Bangladesh officials have said it was unclear when the first refugees could actually return as the two countries need to work out how to jointly verify the identities of returnees.

United Nations agencies and human rights watchers have voiced skepticism about the resettlement plans and demanded a more transparent process to safeguard the Rohingya’s voluntary return.

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