No Rohingya turn up for repatriation to Myanmar

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh’s refugee commissioner said yesterday that no Rohingya turned up to return to Myanmar from camps in the South Asian nation.

Abul Kalam told a news conference that no one from 295 families already interviewed since Tuesday by the Bangladesh government and the United Nations’ (UN) refugee agency agreed to go back to Myanmar.

The repatriation started yesterday. The Buddhist-majority country has certified more than 3,000 refugees from at least 1,056 families as eligible for repatriation.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said her government will not force the refugees to return and the repatriation will only happen if they are willing.

Myanmar’s military began a harsh counterinsurgency campaign against Rohingya in August 2017 in response to an insurgent attack. The campaign has been called ethnic cleansing that has involved mass rapes, killings and the burning of homes.

File photo shows Rohingya refugees during a demonstration at Kutupalong near Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. PHOTO: AP

More than 700,000 Rohingya fled across the border to Bangladesh and have refused to return unless their safety is assured.

Officials said the situation the camps was calm on Wednesday and yesterday, and no chaos was reported like in November last year when thousands protested what they feared might be a forced repatriation.

Nevertheless, Ramzan Begum said her mother-in-law fled the camp for an unknown destination on Wednesday night and had not returned by yesterday.

“She told us she will not go back and left the camp last night,” Begum said.

Many refugees have said they want to go back under direct UN supervision, not under the Myanmar government.

Myanmar refused to recognise Rohingya as citizens or even as an ethnic group, rendering them stateless, and they face other forms of state-sanctioned discrimination.