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Iran Press TV

Rohingya say Bangladesh, aid agencies must stop collecting information for Myanmar

Iran Press TV

Mon Nov 26, 2018 03:53PM

Rohingya refugees in southeast Bangladesh have staged a massive protest and strike, demanding that officials and aid agencies stop sharing their family information with Myanmar's government.

Markets were shut at several of the refugee camps in Cox's Bazar District because of the protest on Monday. Rohingya working with non-government groups and the UN refugee agency also boycotted their jobs as part of the strike.

The leaders of Rohingya refugee camps called the strike to pressure the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to include "Rohingya" on the ID cards it has been issuing them. The smart cards however, identify an individual as a "forcibly displaced Myanmar national" and not as Rohingya.

In a statement, the protesting refugees said it was crucial that they be identified as ethnic Rohingya on the cards because they were being persecuted in Myanmar precisely because of their ethnicity.

"The term 'Rohingya' is very important because we have been persecuted because of our identity," the statement said, adding that while the term was banned in Myanmar, it should not be banned in Bangladesh.

Elsewhere in the statement, the angry protesters also voiced concern about a plan to collect biometric data and copies of documents, as they fear the UNHCR and the Dhaka government could share the data with Myanmar, which could use the information against them.

Bangladesh has been urging the refugees to accept smart cards that help with identification and the distribution of aid.

Firas al-Khateeb, a UNHCR representative, said data was being collected for a verification process which would help Rohingya refugees get better protection and ensure their access to services in Bangladesh.

"It is not linked to repatriation," al-Khateeb said, adding that the data was jointly maintained by Bangladesh and the UNHCR.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been living for more than a year in cramped refugee camps in southeastern Bangladesh after fleeing violence in Rakhine at the hands of the Myanmar military.

In late October, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to begin to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled last year.

None of those on the list agreed to return if their demands for justice, citizenship and the ability to go back to their original villages and land were not met.

Myanmar's government has faced international condemnation for failing to halt the brutal persecution of Rohingya Muslims by military forces and Buddhist extremists.

The Rohingya trace their presence in Rakhine back centuries, but most people in Buddhist-majority Myanmar see them as unwanted immigrants from Bangladesh, with the state denying the Muslims citizenship.

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