A second attempt to repatriate thousands of Rohingya Muslims living in Bangladesh to Myanmar has failed to begin on Thursday (Aug 22) as no Rohingya expressed willingness to return.
The Rohingyas were scheduled to be sent back through Kerontoli Ghat broder point at Teknaf and Tambru border point at Ghumdhum in Bandarban’s Naikhongchhari.
Commissioner of Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC) Mohammad Abul Kalam has said that no one will be repatriated on Thursday (Aug 22) if they are not willing to go.
He made the remarks while speaking to the media at the Shalbagan Rohingya camp in Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar on Thursday. Representatives from China and Myanmar were present at this time.
Mohammad Abul Kalam said that no one had so far expressed any willingness to go back.
If anyone wished to return by 4 pm, they would take measures accordingly, he added.
“The first list comprising 3,340 Rohingyas from 37 families has been prepared for repatriation after it was certified by the Myanmar government. The other lists will be prepared in a similar manner and we would continue to hold the interviews,” he said.
Over 1.1 million Rohingyas are living in a number of refugee camps at Teknaf and Ukhiya upazilas of Cox’s Bazar.
Over 700,000 of them crossed over the border and ended up at the coastal district fleeing brutal persecution carried out by Myanmar security forces, local Buddhist mobs and people from different ethnic groups since August 25, 2017.
Even after authorities told the Rohingyas that Myanmar is ready to accept them as its nationals, many of the refugees interviewed on Wednesday said they would not go back to their homeland until the government guaranteed meeting their five demands, including citizenship.
During a visit to the Shalbagan camp on Wednesday, a number of Rohingya refugees enlisted for repatriation stressed that they would only go back if their demands were met by the Myanmar government first.
Many others also made the same remarks on Tuesday after meeting the UNHCR and RRRC officials.
Sources said many enlisted Rohingya families have also been moving around camps to avoid being called for the interviews.
They are apparently staying with their relatives for days, hiding away from the authorities.
Nur Mohammad of Buthidaung, Rakhine state, who crossed over in 2017 did not go to the camp-in-charge’s (CIC) office on Wednesday to meet the officials for his interview.
Under immense international pressure, Myanmar had signed an agreement with Bangladesh in January 2018 to take back the Rohingyas.
Following a series of painstaking discussions between a proactive Bangladesh and an unwilling Myanmar, the two countries attempted to begin repatriation on November 15 last year, but the effort failed mainly due to the unwillingness of the Rohingyas, and objections from the international community on different grounds.
The refugees at the time had maintained that there was no guarantee that Myanmar will ensure their dignified return and establish their identity as Myanmar nationals.
Since that failed attempt, there has been no development in the repatriation process – until now.
On July 27 this year, a high-level government delegation from Myanmar visited Cox’s Bazar to directly interact with the Rohingyas – the first since the crisis began in 2017.