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  • More than 700,000 have fled violence and persecution in the northern Rakhine province of Myanmar since August 2017.

    More than 700,000 have fled violence and persecution in the northern Rakhine province of Myanmar since August 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 January 2019

“These detainees.. are being treated like criminals," said the Free Rohingya Coalition.

Two-hundred fifty rohingya refugee men are expected to be deported from Saudi Arabia to Bangladesh, an activist group tol Al Jazeera in an exclusive interview Sunday.

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The country is home to 300,000 Rohingya, the majority of whom are legal residents with permit, the Free Rohingya Coalition told the Arabic news corporation.

“These detainees, who are being kept in the Shumaisi detention centre [in Jeddah], have not been treated like their fellow Rohingya. Instead, they are being treated like criminals," said Campaign Coordinator Ro Nay San Lwin.

In a video a detainee waiting to be flown to Dhaka in Jeddah international airport Sunday told the organization that 250 Rohingyan men are scheduled to be deported to Bangladesh where they will face imprisonment.

"When these Rohingya arrive in Bangladesh, they could be jailed. Saudi Arabia should stop these deportations and grant them residency permits like the other Rohingyas who arrived in the country before them," he said.

Over the past two years, several human rights activists have appealed to Saudi officials to stall deportations without avail.

Earlier this month, leaked footage released by Middle East Eye, showed Rohingya refugees handcuffed and held in detention centers in Jeddah. In an interview with TRT World reporter, C.J. Weleman, refugees said at least 1,000 Rohingya men, women, and children will be deported to Bangladesh “against their will.”

Nay San Lwin, said, “Genocide is ongoing. There are more than a million Rohingya Muslims in the camps in Bangladesh. We know that both the Saudi and Bangladesh governments are acting in accordance with their laws. Yet, as persecuted people, they shouldn’t be persecuted again while searching for a safe haven.”

In November, the Guardian reported “concentration camp-like structures” being constructed on an island off of Bangladesh for Rohingya migrants.

Some 100,000 Rohingya refugees will be transferred to the remote “sanctuary” to the Bhasan Char Island, 30 km, or three hours, from the mainland in 2019.

The Rohingya are an ethnic minority from Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country. Rohingya Muslims represent the largest percentage of Muslims in the country.

Myanmar’s government refuses to provide citizenship to Rohingyas, whom they view as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. In 2014, the ethnic group was even excluded from a census.

More than 700,000 have fled violence and persecution in the northern Rakhine province of Myanmar since August 2017 when the Myanmar military cracked down after Rohingya ARSA (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army) militants attacked more than 30 security posts.

In October, Bangladesh and Myanmar made a bilateral plan to repatriate Rohingya refugees back to the country from which the persecuted community fled a genocidal army crackdown. However, this plan was ultimately scrapped after national officials succumbed to the U.N. and many of the refugees selected for repatriation fled the camps.

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