Australia Offers To Pay For Rohingya Refugees Who Agree To Return To Myanmar

Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya ethnic minority and has conducted military operations in Rohingya villages that the UNs’ top human rights official branded 'a textbook example of ethnic cleansing'

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, September 19, 2017) – Australia is promising thousands of dollars to Rohingya refugees who agree to return to Myanmar, a country that has been accused of ethnic cleansing against the Muslim minority.

Asylum seekers in the Australian-run detention centre on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, have been pressured by officials to return to their home countries, even if they face violence.

Papua New Guinea’s supreme court last year ruled the centre for around 800 people breached human rights, was illegal and must close. Australia has since ratcheted up efforts to clear the centre, offering up to A$25,000 to refugees agreeing to go home.

Returning Rohingya to their country could put their lives at risk. Myanmar does not recognise the ethnic minority and has conducted military operations in Rohingya villages that the United Nations’ top human rights official branded “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Close to 400,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, many with bullet wounds and stories of mass killings, as their villages burn.

The Guardian understands up to seven Rohingya may be facing return from Manus Island and spoke to two refugees in PNG who said they were going back.

Yahya Tabani, a 32-year-old Rohingya man who arrived in Australia in 2013 but was sent to Manus Island, said he had no choice but to return.

“I don’t want to stay in PNG,” said Tabani, who used to sell mobile accessories. “I don’t want to die in PNG. I prefer to die in Myanmar. Probably Buddhist people are going to kill me as soon as I arrive in Myanmar … Australia doesn’t care if we live or we die.”

He said he had been promised A$25,000 by the Australian Border Force. He had not yet received any money and does not have a bank account into which it can be paid. Tabani was waiting in the PNG capital Port Moresby for his travel documents.

“I have no right to get citizenship and can’t go to school. I didn’t get any basic rights. Immigration [the Australian immigration department] said I have to live in PNG or go home.”

He said he had been attacked by locals in PNG, who he claims killed another detainee, an Iranian man. They were looking for money, he said. Physical and sexual abuse has been reported on Manus, one asylum seeker was murdered by guards, while others have died from medical neglect and local residents and soldiers have stormed the centre.

PNG Post-Courier
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