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Secretary U.N.-Myanmar transaction on Rohingya does not offer warranties of nationality
At the end of May, the UN signed a framework contract with Myanmar to allow safe and voluntary returns for tens of millions of Rohingya Muslims who had sought refuge in Bangladesh without disclosing the terms of the contract. Nationality and refugee repatriation to Myanmar were central issues in the negotiation of the Convention to re-establish UN agencies' entry into the conflict-ridden Rakhine state, which have been excluded since August last year.
Under the MoU, "returnees will have the same free movements as all other Myanmar citizens in the state of Rakhine, in accordance with the applicable legislation and regulations". Chieftain squads and groups on behalf of refugees and humans say that the treaty does not guarantee the fundamental prerogatives of the Rohingya, some 700,000 of whom have escaped what some West African nations have described as "ethnic cleansing".
UNHCR, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has previously described the MoU as "the first and necessary steps towards creating a frame for cooperation" with the state. The Myanmar spokesperson Zaw Htay and Social Minister Win Myat Aye did not respond to several telephone conversations looking for a coment. Right-wing groups and relief organisations said that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the UN Development Programme, which negotiated the agreement for month after month, had not received major compromises from the Myanmar authorities, particularly on crucial questions of nationality and free circulation.
"UNDP and UNHCR and the Myanmar administration are continuing the debate on the publication of the text of the Memorandum of Understanding," the spokesperson said in an e-mail. Myanmar's Buddhist minority does not recognise the Rohingya as an tribal ethnical group and refuses to grant nationality to most. They are called "Bengalis" by the Bengalis, a concept they oppose because it imply that they are invaders from Bangladesh, although many have had their origins in the land for generation.
Under the MoU, which does not call Rohingya for the refugee, the authorities are obliged "to provide all returning persons with appropriate documents of ID and to guarantee a clear and optional path to nationality for those entitled". However, most Rohingya guides say they will not be returning without a nationality guarantee and refuse the National Verification Card, an alternate ID that urges Myanmar to agree to it by saying that it categorizes lifelong inhabitants as new migrants and does not allow free movement.