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HRW: China must stop forced returns of Myanmar refugees

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Friday called on China to stop forcibly returning thousands of Kachin refugees to northern Myanmar [JURIST news archive]. HRW reported that Chinese authorities repatriated more than 1,000 Kachin refugees to Myanmar [HRW report] last week and plan to deport another 4,000 in the near future. HRW claims that the refugees are at risk from armed hostilities, army abuses and lack of aid, and that Chinese authorities have failed to provide temporary protection and aid to the estimated 7,000 to 10,000 Kachin who have been provided sanctuary in the country. The refugees sent back last week had lived in makeshift camps in China since June 2011, when tens of thousands fled the fighting that erupted after the collapse of the 17-year ceasefire [AFP report] between rebels and the Myanmar government. HRW further claims that the Chinese government has denied UN and international humanitarian agencies needed access to the refugees, and that those returned to Myanmar will live in camps for internally displaced people that also lack adequate aid and to which Myanmar authorities have blocked humanitarian access. In a 68-page report in June HRW documented the plight of the refugees [report, PDF] and the wartime abuses they suffered, including forced labor, killings, rape and torture at the hands of the army. Parts of Myanmar have been embroiled in civil war since 1948.

Myanmar President Thein Sein [BBC profile] last week announced the creation of a 27-member commission tasked with investigating the cause of the sectarian violence [JURIST report] between Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists. Earlier this month HRW accused government forces [JURIST report] of human rights violations following the clashes. Last month spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Melissa Fleming reported that ten UN staff and aid workers had been arrested [JURIST report] in the northwestern Rakhine state and three of them are facing unknown criminal charges. In June HRW had urged [JURIST report] the Chinese government to provide basic food and shelter needs to refugees from Myanmar after finding refugee abuse. Earlier that month HRW also called on [JURIST report] Bangladesh to open its borders to Myanmar refugees a day after it demanded Myanmar ensure the safety of communities in the Arakan State subject to the violence between Arakan Buddhists and ethnic Rohingya Muslims.

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