Friday 13 July 2012

UN refugee chief rejects call to resettle Rohingya

Source from Huff Post World, 12 July 2012
YANGON, Myanmar — The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees on Thursday rejected a suggestion by Myanmar's president that the world body resettle or take care of ethnic Rohingyas who have settled in the Southeast Asian country.

UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres told reporters it was not his agency's job to resettle the Rohingya, who live in western Myanmar but without Myanmar citizenship.

On his website, President Thein Sein said he told Guterres in a meeting Wednesday that the solution to ethnic enmity in Myanmar's western Rakhine state was to either send the Rohingya to a third country or have the UNHCR look after them.

Clashes last month between Buddhist Rakhines and Muslin Rohingya left at least 78 people dead and tens of thousands homeless. The Rakhine consider the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

Thein Sein described the violence at the time as a threat to the democratic and economic reforms his government launched after decades of repressive rule by a military junta.

"The resettlement programs organized by UNHCR are for refugees who are fleeing a country to another, in very specific circumstances. Obviously, it's not related to this situation," said Guterres.

Thein Sein's reported suggestion to Guterres left unclear exactly how many people he had in mind. The U.N. estimates there are about 800,000 Rohingya in Myanmar. The count includes people of Bengali heritage who settled centuries ago, as well as people who may have entered the country in recent decades.

Many people in Myanmar don't recognize as legitimate settlers even those of Bengali heritage who came in the 19th century, when Myanmar was under British rule and called Burma.

Large exoduses of Rohingya to Bangladesh in the 1980s and 1990s because of persecution, and their subsequent return, also add to the confusion over who is an illegal immigrant.

Thein Sein told Guterres that according to Myanmar law, those Bengalis who settled in Myanmar before the country gained independence from Britain in 1948 and their children are regarded as citizens. However, post-independence immigrants are officially considered illegal and threatening to the country's stability.

In practice, it is difficult for many people of Bengali heritage to obtain citizenship, and they face discriminatory legal restrictions on movement, marriage and reproduction.

"We will take responsibility of our ethnic nationals but it is impossible to accept those Rohingyas who are not our ethnic nationals who had entered the country illegally. The only solution is to hand those illegal Rohingyas to the UNHCR or to send them to any third country that would accept them," Thein Sein told Guterres, according to his website.

Joint press release                                                                                               

We the undersigned organizations have strongly condemned President Thein Sein for his disowning the Rohingyas.  It is an irresponsible action that the President had proposed UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres that sending the Rohingyas to refugee camps run by the UNHCR was the “only solution” to the issue. He also nonsensically said, “We will send them away if any third country would accept them”.

The statement of the President Thein Sein affirms the Government’s premeditated plan and direct involvement in the killing, destruction, rape, extortion, loot and starvation of the Rohingyas in Arakan. It can be considered a case of genocide.

The Rohingyas have a long glorious history in Arakan. There is no doubt the Rohingya population has been in Burma since before the formation of the State. By international law they are NOT ‘stateless’ in Burma. They conform to a genuine and effective link with no other State except Burma. The Government does not wish to recognize Rohingyas’ citizenship does not make them stateless.

The fundamental obligations of the State are to protect all persons within its jurisdictions. It is factually nonsense to call ‘illegally entered Rohingyas’. It is time for Bangladesh to stand up against Burmese Government’s false accusation.

We, therefore, appeal to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to immediately intervene in the issue in order to save the life, property, honour and human dignity of the Rohingya people. We also urge upon the EU, ASEAN, USA and all governments and international community to pressurize the Burmese Government to stop persecution of Rohingyas and to restore their rights and freedom on par with other ethnic groups of the country.

Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO),  Burmese Rohingya Association Japan (BRAJ)         
Burmese Rohingya Association Deuschland (BRAD)
Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand (BRAT)           
Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia (BRCA)                        
Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK)
National Democratic Party for Human Rights  (In Exile)
Rohingya Community in Norway (RCN)
Rohingya League for Democracy (Burma) (RLDB)

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