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Rohingya family repatriated

In this April 14, 2018, photo provided by  Myanmar Government Information Committee, Myanmar immigration officials examine documents and photographs with a Rohingya family of five at a receiving center in Taung Pyo, Letwe, northern Rakhine state.  (Myanmar Government Information Committee via AP)

In this April 14, 2018, photo provided by Myanmar Government Information Committee, Myanmar immigration officials examine documents and photographs with a Rohingya family of five at a receiving center in Taung Pyo, Letwe, northern Rakhine state. (Myanmar Government Information Committee via AP)

YANGON, Myanmar – Myanmar’s government said it repatriated on Saturday the first family of Rohingya out of some 700,000 refugees who fled to Bangladesh to escape a brutal military campaign, despite United Nations warnings that a safe return is not yet possible.

The stateless Muslim minority has been massing in squalid Bangladesh camps since the Myanmar army launched a ruthless crackdown on the community in northern Rakhine state last August. The UN says the campaign amounts to ethnic cleansing, but Myanmar has denied the charge, saying its troops targeted Rohingya militants. Bangladesh and Myanmar vowed to begin repatriation in January but the plan has been repeatedly delayed as both sides blame the other for a lack of preparation.

According to a Myanmar government statement posted late Saturday, one family of Rohingya refugees became the first to return earlier in the day. “The 5 members of a family…came back to Taungpyoletwei town repatriation camp in Rakhine state this morning,” said a statement posted on the official Facebook page of the government’s Information Committee. The post described the family as “Muslim,” in line with a government policy not to use the word “Rohingya,” which authorities do not recognize as an ethnicity. Authorities determined “whether they were once living here” and provided the family with National Verification Cards, a form of ID that falls short of citizenship and has been rejected by Rohingya leaders who want full rights. (AFP)

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