Rohingyas not willing to go back

Repatriation move postponed as no one turned up

The initiative to repatriate the Rohingya refugees went in vain on Thursday, as people of the community, apprehending further deprivation, are still unwilling to go back to their motherland. The fresh attempt to repatriate the refugees to Myanmar bore no fruit as no one turned up to embark on the five buses and 10 trucks prepared by the government. Officials finally postponed the move on Thursday afternoon after waiting for the whole day, said sources.

Leaders of the community said that they would return if only their citizenship was granted and safety ensured. Officials finally postponed the repatriation move in the afternoon after waiting for the whole day, reports our Cox’s Bazar correspondent. "We have been waiting since 9am to take any willing refugees for repatriation," said Khalid Hossain, In-Charge of Shalbagan Refugee Camp at Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar, after several hours of waiting on Thursday. "Nobody has yet turned up," he added.

Earlier, in November last year, the first attempt to repatriate the Rohingyas also failed due to unwillingness of the community people to return fearing the same misfortune that drove them out of their country two years ago. Contacted, Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Abul Kalam told Bangladesh Post on Thursday noon that none of the 295 families interviewed is willing to go back.

“We have postponed the Rohingya repatriation in the afternoon as the enlisted refugees refused to return to their homeland in Myanmar,” he added. “The persecuted Rohingyas now living in 21 makeshift camps in Ukhia and Teknaf upazilas have informed that they are not feeling safe to return without the intervention of the United Nations for ensuring their security,” Kalam said.

“Although,” Kalam said, “We have postponed the repatriation process, the interviews of the Rohingyas, planned for 3500 more for the next few days, will continue. “We are fully ready on the ground and committed to sending the first lot of the refugees any time,” said Kalam who is also the district commissioner of Cox’s Bazar.

Earlier, some 3,500 Rohingya refugees were cleared for repatriation following a joint exercise led by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Bangladesh government. Bangladesh’s foreign ministry forwarded a list of more than 22,000 refugees to Myanmar for verification and Naypyidaw cleared 3,450 individuals for ‘return’.

"We will go back only if we are granted full citizenship," said 35-year-old Farhana Begum, who has two children. "At least we have shelter here." Farhana said she fears her family will be killed if they return to Myanmar. Rohingya community leader Jafar Alam told a global news agency that the refugees had been gripped by fear since authorities announced the new repatriation process. “They also fear being sent to camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) if they went back to Myanmar,” he said.

“We know that thousands of Rohingyas back in Myanmar are still in detention camps,” said a Rohingya refugee, referring to an estimated 125,000 Rohingyas who have been confined to open-air camps in central Rakhine State since 2012. He said, “If those people are released and return to their villages, then we will know it is safe to return and we will go back home.” Meanwhile, in New York, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric on Wednesday said that repatriations had to be ‘voluntary’.

“Any return should be voluntary and sustainable and in safety and in dignity to their place of origin and choice,” Dujarric told reporters. The UN Security Council met behind closed doors on the issue Wednesday. Mentionable, the Rohingyas are not officially recognised as a minority by the Myanmar government, which considers them Bengali interlopers despite many families having lived in Rakhine for generations.