The Financial Express

Rohingyas show no willingness to return to Myanmar, says official

FE Online Desk | Published: August 22, 2019 15:33:04 | Updated: August 22, 2019 21:48:56

Rohingya refugees wait for food supply distribution at Balukhali camp, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh Jan 15, 2018. Reuters Rohingya refugees wait for food supply distribution at Balukhali camp, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh Jan 15, 2018. Reuters

Repatriation has not started until this noon as none of the Rohingays has expressed their willingness to return to Myanmar which they were forced to flee during the military's brutal crackdown on them.

"We have taken all preparations to repatriate them. If anyone agrees to be repatriated by 4:00am, he or she will be sent back to Myanmar," Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam told reporters at the Shalbagan Rohingya camp in Cox's Bazar around 12:30 pm.

During this time, representatives from China and Mynamar were also present at the Rohingya camp.

Authorities completed their necessary preparations yesterday (Wednesday) to start the repatriation from today (Thursday).

Kalam said that most of the heads of 235 families they talked to on Tuesday and Wednesday assured them of returning to Myanmar. So, five buses and three trucks have been kept ready. None but Rohingyas who will willingly get on the vehicles will be repatriated.

As part of the effort to repatriate Rohingyas, a foolproof security system has been put in place in the area ranging from Kerantali to Naikhangchhari in the district's Teknaf upazila bordering Myanmar, according to media reports.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a statement on Wednesday, said the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh should suspend the plan to repatriate the Rohingya refugees until (it is ensured that) their returns are safe, voluntary and dignified.

With the new move of repatriation, the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh camps protested.

The Myanmar authorities concerned have verified 3,454 refugees for an initial round of repatriation from a list of 22,000 people, submitted by the Bangladesh authorities.

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, and the Bangladesh government said they are seeking to confirm that these refugees wish to return.

“We know that thousands of the Rohingya people in Myanmar are still in detention camps,” one refugee told the HRW, referring to an estimated 125,000 Rohingyas, who have been confined to open-air camps in Central Rakhine State since 2012.

“If those people are released and can return to their own villages, then we will perceive that it is safe to return, and will go back to our home.”

The refugees called on the Myanmar government to ensure their full citizenship rights as well as to return their lands and properties to them. They also demanded compensation for loss of homes and businesses that the military regime destroyed.

More than 740,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since August 2017 to escape the Myanmar military’s ‘ethnic cleansing’ and crimes against humanity.

Bangladesh and Myanmar previously attempted a repatriation in November 2018, without consulting the UNHCR or the Rohingyas. As a result, the refugees, included in the list for return, went into hiding, and refused to leave.

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