Executive Summary for February 21st

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including pressure on Rohingya stranded at the Bangladesh border to return to Myanmar, refugee funding withheld after corruption claims in Uganda, and Israel jailing Eritreans who refused deportation.

Published on Feb. 21, 2018 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Myanmar, Bangladesh Step up Pressure on Rohingya in No Man’s Land

Bangladeshi officials said Myanmar would resettle thousands of Rohingya stranded in a no man’s land on the border, but the displaced community said they would not return without guarantees for their safety.

An estimated 6,000 Rohingya have been living near the Tombru border point after fleeing the conflict in late August. Bangladeshi officials, who insist the Rohingya are the responsibility of Myanmar, visited the site this week to try to persuade them to return voluntarily.

After meeting with their counterparts in Myanmar, Bangladeshi officials said Myanmar had agreed to verify the displaced people’s identities and allow them to return voluntarily and safely. Myanmar had recently stepped up threats that the Rohingya must evacuate the area.

But like refugees in Bangladesh, the Rohingya at the border said they were too afraid to return until their rights are recognized and their safety is guaranteed, amid the brutal crackdown in Rakhine state and decades of being persecuted.

“We are not going to return to our homes and villages in Myanmar unless our demands are met. We want citizenship, all rights, security to our lives and property and compensation,” community leader Dil Mohammad told Agence France-Presse.

The U.N. refugee agency said that many of those stranded on the border want to seek asylum in Bangladesh and urged Bangladeshi authorities to allow them to do so. The medical aid charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said that several hundred Rohingya refugees are still crossing every week into Bangladesh, where nearly 700,000 have sought shelter since last August.

Donors Withhold Funds After Uganda Corruption Allegations

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said donors are suspending some funds for the refugee crisis in Uganda until allegations of fraud over refugee number-counting is resolved.

The Ugandan government, the E.U. and the U.N. are investigating allegations that officials siphoned off aid and manipulated refugee numbers, and are now working to reverify the numbers.

“There’s concern that the numbers are not accurate,” UNHCR spokeswoman Teresa Ongalo told reporters. “What we have received from donors is an indication that until we’re able to verify the numbers they will withhold funding.”

Any funding cuts are likely to have a major impact on the country, which is hosting more than 1.4 million refugees, mostly from war-ravaged South Sudan. Rising violence in Democratic Republic of Congo has also seen a wave of refugees pouring into Uganda in recent weeks.

Israel Jails Asylum Seekers Who Refuse Deportation, Prompting Hunger Strike

Israel jailed seven Eritreans who refused to leave Israel under new rules that allow for the indefinite detention of migrants who reject voluntary deportation.

Although two had survived torture in the Sinai while trying to enter Israel, their asylum requests were rejected, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. Israel has granted only around 10 people refugee status, despite thousands of asylum requests from Eritreans and Sudanese.

Now Israel has started issuing deportation notices to those at the Holot open detention center in the Negev desert. The seven Eritreans refused to return to Eritrea or a third country – Rwanda – and so were moved to the closed Saharonim Prison, where they could be held indefinitely.

Asylum seekers in Holot launched a hunger strike in response. “Not one person is eating,” Abdat, an Eritrean held at Holot, told the newspaper. “They tell us, ‘It’s a pity to throw the food away.’ We say lives are also being thrown away.”

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