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15 April 2018, 05:56 | Devin Moran
Myanmar says it has repatriated first Rohingya family despite UN warnings
Myanmar says it has repatriated the first Rohingya refugees from among almost 700,000 who fled a crackdown in the country a year ago despite warnings from the United Nations that it is not yet safe to return.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled Myanmar's Rakhine State to refugee camps in Bangladesh following violence in August which the United Nations has labelled ethnic cleansing.
The UN has said the military-led operations that started last August amount to ethnic cleansing, but Myanmar has denied the charge, saying its troops targeted Rohingya militants.
Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed in January to complete a voluntary repatriation of the refugees in two years.
"I hope, Myanmar will repatriate all the families within the possible shortest time", the home minister said.
The Myanmar government announced late on Saturday that a family of refugees had become the first to be processed in newly built repatriation centres earlier that day.
"The five members of a family came back to Taungpyoletwei town repatriation camp in Rakhine state this morning", according to the governments Information Committee.
Images accompanying the social media post on Saturday showed five individuals receiving identification cards - which do not grant citizenship - from uniformed Myanmar officials, and getting medical help and living provisions from health and social workers. "The repatriated Rohingya family did not reach Bangladesh as they used to live on no-man's land", Kamal said while talking to reporters this noon.
Myanmar authorities have since bulldozed over numerous charred villages, raising alarm from rights groups who say they are erasing evidence of atrocities and obscuring the Rohingya's ties to the country.
More than 670,000 Rohingya fled violence in Myanmar since last August, joining an estimated 200,000 Rohingya who have sought shelter in Bangladesh, arriving in waves over the past decades.
Last week, the most senior United Nations official to visit Burma this year, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ursula Mueller, said the conditions in Burma were not conducive to the return of the refugees.
The UN refugee agency has said conditions in Myanmar were not ready for the Rohingya refugees to return.
"Before proceeding with the repatriation of Rohingya, the Myanmar government must recognize and guarantee all their fundamental human rights", he told AFP.
Many of their original communities were burned to the ground in the violence that Doctors Without Borders says claimed at least 6,700 Rohingya lives in the first month alone.
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