Monday, Jan 8, Washington DC: American Rohingya leaders and Burma Task Force USA today appealed to the US government to ensure that Rohingya refugees are not forced back to Burma, the land they scape from just a couple of months ago. Faced with genocide to expel the community from their native land in Burma, Rohingya escaped to Bangladesh. “Rohingyas must not be sent back to the genocide zones of Burma without security and citizenship,” stated Imam Malik Mujahid, Chairman of Burma Task Force.
“The majority of the over 650,000 Rohingya that have fled into Bangladesh since summer are women and children, and we fear for this vulnerable community. Satellite documentation shows over 350 villages burned by the Myanmar military and local vigilantes,” added Shaukhat Kyaw Soe Aung, Chairman of the Rohingya American Society (RAC), based in Wisconsin. “Will that same military now settle Rohingya safely in their original homes? We agree with the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights who declared the situation in Rakhine State not safe enough to bring Rohingya back without strong UN involvement. But so far the UN has been excluded from this process.”
“This is a useful opportunity for Rohingya refugee leaders from around the United States to build a stronger, unified front,” added Mohammed Dean, BAMA (Burmese American Muslim Association), based in Los Angeles. “The world media now talks about us, but we hope they will also talk directly with us because Rohingya are not just victims. We are community members and active in building a safer, more peaceful future. But we also hope that policymakers will do much more to help protect our suffering families and relatives.”
We the undersigned Rohingya Americans and Burma Task Force request Bangladesh government to reconsider its decision to return 100,000 Rohingya refugees to Myanmar beginning January 22, 2018.
In late December 2017, the Government of Bangladesh announced that it has submitted the names of 100,000 Rohingya refugees to Myanmar to be repatriated in the first phase of their deal with Myanmar. Rohingya fear that many of the over 650,000 refugees that have fled into Bangladesh this year will be forced to return to an extremely dangerous and uncertain situation. Especially given the role that the Myanmar military has played in recent mass atrocities, forced repatriation (or “refoulement”) would be cruel and contrary to international law.
There have been at least four mass expulsions of Rohingya into Bangladesh, but none of the previous agreements solved the root causes of displacement: loss of citizenship and civil rights restrictions that keep the Rohingya minority stateless. Repatriation must be linked to the restoration of Rohingya citizenship, return of land and property as well as safety guarantees.
Under international law, refugees have the right to be repatriated in their original villages and homes. Instead, the Burmese authorities have spoken about isolating any returnees in “model villages” a form of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp. The Myanmar government has already announced that it is seizing the lands and properties left behind by displaced Rohingya. Under the law, such properties become the property of the state and there has been no positive public discussion of either restoration or reparation.
UN agencies have also been excluded from the Rohingya Repatriation Deal. Instead, the UNHCR and other international agencies should be allowed to build and help enforce reliable, multi-lateral legal instruments for Rohingya integration and peaceful coexistence in Myanmar.
The current repatriation pact between Myanmar and Bangladesh is unworkable. Genocide is not a bilateral issue.
Adopted January 7, 2018 in Washington DC
Mohammad Mustak Mohammad Arif, Rohingya Society of Greater Nashua (New Hampshire)
Abdul Hamid bin Musa Ali, Burmese Rohingya Community of Wisconsin
Shaukat Ali, Rohingya American Society (Milwaukee)
Nasir bin Zakaria, Rohingya Cultural Center (Chicago)
Mohammed Dean, BAMA (Burmese American Muslim Association) California
Mohiuddin Mohamad Yusuf, World Rohingya Organization (New York)
Reza Uddin, Oregon Rohingya Society (Portland)
Khip Maung (Anwar) Win, Rohingya National Coalition (Los Angeles)
Dr. Wakar Ahmed Uddin, Rohingya Union
Imam Malik Mujahid, Chair Burma Task Force USA
Based in downtown Chicago, Burma Task Force is a coalition of 19 American and Canadian Muslim organizations dedicated to ending the suffering of Myanmar’s Rohingya. For more information please visit: www.burmataskforce.org