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Bangladesh : 9000 Moslem refugees from Burma threatened with deportation

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Göttingen, December 30, 2009

The Society for Threatened Peoples STP (Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker GfbV) warned on Wednesday that 9,000 Moslem Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh are likely to be deported to their home country of Burma . "The refugees face danger for life and limb if they are returned to Burma ", said the STP Asia consultant, Ulrich Delius, in Göttingen. The foreign ministers of Burma and Bangladesh agreed on Tuesday that the refugees should be returned soon. "This is the second hard blow for the protection of refugees in South-East Asia in just two days", criticised Delius. "International rules for the support of people seeking refuge are being abolished and basic human rights are being trampled on." Last Monday Thailand deported 4,000 Hmong refugees to Laos .

Official figures show that there are some 28,000 members of the Moslem minority of the Rohingya in three camps in Bangladesh . But there are at least 200,000 Rohingya living in the country without legal registration. Tens of thousands of them have fled since 1992 from the Burmese federal state of Arakhan to the neighbouring country of Bangladesh on account of religious persecution and the withdrawal of their civil rights. Over the years the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees of the United Nations (UNHCR) has cooperated in returning them - against their will - to Burma .

Systematically members of the minority who are picked up by the Bangladeshi border guards on their flight to the neighbouring country are being given over to the Burmese authorities. 75 refugees were delivered to Burma on 22nd December 2009 alone. For years Bangladesh has been striving for the return of the Rohingya living in the camps who are officially registered as refugees. Burma has hitherto refused to take them back because they are not recognized as Burmese citizens, but it has now agreed to do so on account of the tension which has been building up in recent months.

The Rohingya fear being returned to the apartheid system in Burma , where they are denied basic human rights. They are not only hampered in the practice of their faith as Moslems. They are not issued with passports and they are even restricted in their freedom of movement inside the country, they are not allowed to marry, they are not accepted for posts in the public service and they are constantly made victims of forced labour, confiscations and other attacks by the security forces. More than 3,000 Burmese soldiers are at present working on the construction of a fence along the 320 km-long border between the two states in order to prevent more Rohingya from escaping.

Ulrich Delius can give further information at asien@gfbv.de