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Rohingya refuse repatriation again

DHAKA (UCAN): A second attempt to repatriate hundreds of Rohingya Muslim refugees from camps in Bangladesh failed after they refused to return unconditionally to Myanmar. Bangladesh and Myanmar had agreed to repatriate 3,540 Rohingya from three camps in Cox’s Bazar district starting on August 22.
 
The refugees were picked from a list of 22,000 that was handed to a Myanmase delegation in July. A similar repatriation attempt on 15 November 2018 failed following protests from refugees. This time, the situation was calmer in the camps but the result was the same.
 
The attempt came only days before the second anniversary (August 25) of the military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine State that forced more than 742,000 Rohingya Muskims to flee to Bangladesh.
 
Mohammad Abul Kalam, commissioner of the Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC), told journalists at a refugee camp in Teknaf that the repatriation plan was postponed due to the “unwillingness” of refugees.
 
“We kept five buses and three trucks ready from the morning to take the refugees to repatriation points, but none turned up. During interviews with 295 listed Rohingya families none agreed to return to Myanmar until their demands were met,” Kalam said.
 
The demands include a guarantee of citizenship in Myanmar, freedom of movement, repatriation to their home, the return of and reparations for their properties, and international-level security.
 
However, Kalam added that interviews with other Rohingya families would continue to see whether they are willing to go back unconditionally.
 
Officials from the embassies of Myanmar and China, as well as the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) were also present at the press briefing. 
 
Officials from the RRRC and UNHCR conducted a series interviews with Rohingya families seeking their opinion about being repatriated to Myanmar.
 
Muhammad Kamal, a 35-year-old father of three living in Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, was one of those listed for return.
 
“Why should we go back to Myanmar without an assurance of citizenship and security?” he demanded to know, adding, “Myanmese (military) will kill us. We are happy in Bangladesh where there is no fear of death at least.” 
 
He said, “First ensure that our rights will be protected, justice delivered and that repatriation will be to our home not to camps, and we will go back immediately.” 
 
The failure to repatriate the Rohingya is “a lesson” said Holy Cross Father Liton Gomes, secretary of Catholic bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission, said.
 
“The Rohingya crisis is a complex issue, so a repatriation plan can be sustainable if we can ensure that we are addressing root causes of the Rohingya’s plight—their unmet basic rights. Logically, there is no guarantee of a peaceful and dignified life in Myanmar without fulfilling their demands,” Father Gomes said.
 
“The international community needs to continue pressure, so Rohingya rights are recognised and their repatriation becomes worthwhile,” the priest added.
 
The Rohingya have lived in Myanmar’s Rakhine State for generations, but many Buddhists consider them “recent illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh.
 
Since the 1970s, Rohingya have trickled into Bangladesh to escape persecution by successive military governments and elements from Rakhine Buddhist communities.
 
Bangladesh, Myanmar and the UNHCR signed a repatriation deal in early 2018, but to date not a single person has been repatriated.

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