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Burma's "smiling offensive" endangers refugees: 28,000 Burma-refugees are threatened with deportation from Bangladesh

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Göttingen, December 14, 2011

More than 28,000 political refugees from Burma, who had sought refuge in Bangladesh, are about to be deported to their home country. On Thursday, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) announced that the refugees who are about to be deported belong to the Muslim Rohingya - who have been persecuted in Burma for decades. The Burmese government has now agreed to deport the members of religious minorities - who have been living in Bangladesh since the early 90s - to try and ease the strained relationship with neighboring countries. "This is an absurd situation, because the Rohingya will be victims of the liberalization in Burma which the international community welcomed so much," said the STP's expert on questions regarding Asia, Ulrich Delius. "But violations of human rights against the Rohingya still continue there."

Bangladesh has been demanding the return of the 28,000 officially registered Rohingya refugees living in the country, but the authorities in Burma do not accept them as Burmese nationals. The authorities see the Rohingya migrants from Burma - about one million of them - as migrants from Bangladesh and treats them as stateless persons. They may neither have certificates of birth or marriage issued, they are not allowed to possess own land and their freedom of movement is seriously restricted. When a fishing boat with Rohingya refugees stranded at the coast of southern Burma recently, the 63 passengers were sentenced to one and a half years in prison for violating immigration regulations.

"Given the ongoing human rights violations against the Rohingya, who regularly become victims of discrimination and persecution, it is inhumane and irresponsible to deport all the officially registered Rohingya refugees", said Delius. Nearly every day, Rohingya try to cross the increasingly secured border to Bangladesh in order to find shelter.

In addition to the officially registered refugees, several hundreds of thousands of Rohingya are living illegally in Bangladesh under very difficult conditions. Newcomers have no chance at all to be accepted as refugees. Anyone who is spotted crossing the border is immediately handed over to the Burmese authorities. Since January 2011, more than 1310 unregistered Rohingya refugees were deported to Burma.

Ulrich Delius can be reached under +49 (0)551-49906-27.

Translated by Robert Kurth