No Rohingya shows up for return to Myanmar

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury in Dhaka and Mohammad Nurul Islam in Cox’s Bazar | Published: 01:05, Aug 23,2019


Sayed Ullah, centre, a representative of the Rohingya community, speaks to the press as local leaders give their reaction to a repatriation plan for refugees to return to Myanmar from Bangladesh in the Shalbagan camp in Teknaf on Thursday. — AFP photo

None of the 295 Rohingya families the authorities interviewed so far for repatriation showed up on Thursday for going back to Rakhine in Myanmar they left nearly two years ago amid state-sponsored atrocities.

‘None of the 295 families we interviewed for return showed up to go to Rakhine,’ refugee relief and repatriation commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said at a press briefing in Cox’s Bazar on Thursday afternoon.

The process of assessing voluntariness of Rohingyas for return would, however, continue, he said, adding, ‘if anyone agrees to go back to their homeland, we’ll transfer them. The process of repatriation would be voluntary.’

Authorities in Cox’s Bazar kept buses and trucks waiting for carrying prospective willing returnees to Ghumdhum border posts for handing over them to the UNHCR and Myanmar authorities in Rakhine. But none of the Rohingya families came to avail the opportunity.

Badrul Islam, a Rohingya camp leader at Salbagan in Teknaf, said that they would not go back to Myanmar without ensuring citizenship, ethnic identity as Rohingya, security and safety.

Two officials of the Chinese embassy and an official of the Myanmar embassy in Dhaka, too, visited Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar.

 ‘We are here to observe the process of repatriation,’ Chinese embassy director Zheng Tianzhuo said replying to question of journalists.  

Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said that Myanmar created the crisis. ‘Now they must earn trust of the Rohingya families for a sustainable repatriation.’

When asked about the demands placed by the Rohingya people, he said that they (Rohingyas) should settle the matter of citizenship with their government upon their return in Rakhine.

The Bangladesh government would continue to make efforts for ensuring their safe, dignified and sustainable return, he added.

UNHCR on Thursday said in a statement that it was assisting the Bangladesh government in surveying about 3,450 Rohingya refugees on whether they wish to return to Myanmar and to confirm the  voluntariness of any individual decision to do so.

‘So far, none of those interviewed has indicated willingness to repatriate at this time,’ UNHCR said, adding that it would continue to assist the Bangladesh government in this process to ensure that all those cleared for return have been interviewed.

Many Rohingyas stated that they hoped to go back home to Myanmar as soon as conditions allowed and that assurances regarding their citizenship status, freedom of movement, and security in Myanmar could be provided, UNHCR added.

Voluntariness of the prospective Rohingya people belonging to some 1,038 Rohingya families is being assessed to ascertain whether they wanted to return to Rakhine or not.

More than 7,00,000 Rohingyas, mostly women, children and aged people, entered Bangladesh after fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape during ‘security operations’ by the Myanmar military in Rakhine, what the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing and genocide, beginning from August 25, 2017.

The latest Rohingya influx took the number of undocumented Myanmar nationals and registered refugees from that country in Bangladesh to about 11,16,000, according to estimates by UN agencies and Bangladesh foreign ministry.

The first attempt for repatriation had failed on 15 November 2018 as none expressed their intent to go back to Rakhine.

The parliamentary standing committee on foreign ministry on Thursday asked the ministry to make arrangements for visit of the committee members to Singapore and Thailand to discuss the Rohingya issues. The committee made the request in a meeting with its chairman Muhammad Faruk Khan in the chair.

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