The Burmese/Myanmar government has claimed to begin the repatriation process of Rohingya refugees that have fled into Bangladesh. The government says that next week, over 1,258 refugees will return — 750 of which are actually Rohingya, and 508 who are Hindus.

The Burmese government aims to repatriate approximately 1,200 back into their borders, but it was around 1,200 children under the age of five that the same government killed in one month, less than a year ago. This includes bashing infants against trees, burning families in their homes — most of the deaths of these children were from shooting. From the Kutupalong camp on the border of Bangladesh, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth expressed his concerns:

Some 58% of the refugees are children, many of whom are still traumatized by their experiences of violence … It is critical that their rights and needs in terms of protection and aid are front and centre in any agreement to return families to Myanmar. Return of refugees to Myanmar must be voluntary, safe and dignified …  In just the last few days we have heard reports of fires and shooting in villages across the border. Until the safety and wellbeing of any child returning to Myanmar can be guaranteed, talk of repatriation is premature.”

The U.N. has described the violence against the Rohingya as “textbook ethnic cleansing.”

Two ethnic Rakhine laborers rest from work at the newly-built repatriation camps prepared for Rohingya refugees expected to return from Bangladesh, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, in Taungpyo township, border town of northern Rakhine State, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)

Even if the violence stops (which it hasn’t), sources on the ground relay high levels of skepticism to SOFREP about any repatriation efforts, due to an inherent mistrust in the government. If the repatriation efforts turn out to be honest attempts at bringing the Rohingya back into the fold and allowing them a seat at the Burmese table as they once had, this is an important step.

However, their skepticism also lies in some problems with the technicalities of the repatriation efforts themselves. By definition, the 1982 Citizenship Law typically denies the Rohingya citizenship in the first place — if the repatriation efforts are contingent on Rohingya proving their citizenship upon crossing the border, that could be difficult.

To contrast: there is a lot of controversy in the United States regarding immigration, and who should be allowed citizenship. We argue about how difficult it should be to acquire a U.S. Passport, but if someone was born in the U.S., their parents were born in the U.S., and their grandparents worked in American government — no one would typically argue their right to American citizenship.

Many in Burma consider the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants, but they immigrated just after WWII, not any time recently. After their immigration, they were recognized as one of the many ethnic minorities throughout Burma, like the Karen and the Shan. The Rohingya even held seats at Burmese parliament. However, in 1962, when the military regime took hold, the disdain toward the Rohingya began to grow, and they have subsequently lost any footing in the country they once held. Since then, they have been in constant conflict with the Burmese government, who consistently tries to drive them out of the country or wipe them out altogether (be it by violence or destruction of culture and language).