Bangladesh authorities on Sunday ruled out the much-circulated news of the repatriation of a five-member Muslim Rohingya family to Myanmar.
“This isn’t repatriation, but the move is very positive,” refugee, relief and repatriation commissioner Abul Kalam told a press briefing at his office in Cox’s Bazar.
He came up with the remarks hours after Myanmar said it has repatriated a five-member family of Rohingyas from Bangladesh.
The family has completed the repatriation process and is staying with relatives in Maungdaw town near the border, said a statement from Myanmar.
The Muslim family came to Taungpyoletwea reception centre in Rakhine state of Myanmar in the morning, and they were scrutinized by immigration and health ministry officials.
After the scrutiny, the social welfare, relief and resettlement ministry provided them with “materials such as rice, mosquito netting, blankets, t-shirt, longis (Burmese sarong) and kitchen utensils, it added.
The family members who “are in line with the rules” were issued the National Verification Cards (NVCs) upon entering Myanmar.
NVCs are part of the government’s ongoing efforts to register Rohingya that falls short of offering them citizenship.
Brushing aside the Myanmar announcement, Abul Kalam said this was not repatriation at all. However, their return is a positive move that proves that the situation is favourable for repatriation.
He said a five-member family from Myanmar side of no-man’s-land between Bangladesh and Myanmar went back to Myanmar on Saturday morning.
The part of the no-man’s-land is of Myanmar and this was not repatriation in any way, he explained.
Abul Kalam also said if Myanmar takes back about 6,000 Rohingyas staying on the no-man’s-land, it will facilitate the repatriation process.
Though it’s not repatriation, he welcomed the move, saying: ‘If Myanmar takes back its citizens, there is no need for mediator’.
Citing that the Myanmar government deserves congratulation for the change of its mind, Kalam said if the Rohingyas feel confident and secured for return, nobody can bar them from their repatriation to their homes.
A foreign ministry official said this is not clear who returned to Myanmar -- as far we have known nobody went back from Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar.
It seems to be a trick played by the Myanmar side, the official noted.
Sarwer Kamal, Upazila Nirbahi Officer of Naikkhengsori in Bandarban, said a Rohingya family has returned from Konarpara area, that is the part of Myanmar on the no-man’s-land.
That’s why their return doesn’t mean repatriation, however, the beginning of the return is good as Bangladesh wants the Rohingyas go back to their homes, he noted.
Dil Mohammad, a Rohingya staying in the same area of the no-man’s-land, said the Rohingya family of Akhter Kamal returned to Myanmar with the help of the Myanmar government.
Akhter was the chairman of Bolibazar under Maungdaw district of Myanmar. He was accompanied by three women and a child during his return, he noted.
Arif Hossain, a Rohingya leader, said Akhter Kamal has long been working for the Myanmar government as a spy on the no-man’s-land.
His (Akhter Kamal) return to Myanmar and reception there is orchestrated for complicating the entire repatriation process, Arif said.
Zafar Alam, an ex-student of Yangun University, said the return of the family is a positive move for repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh.
“We could learn that the news of the Rohingya family return has started creating a sense of confidence in other Rohingyas for repatriation,” he added.