Doubts linger over voluntary return of Rohingyas

Tuesday 20th August 2019 15:53 EDT

Dhaka: The Myanmar government has cleared the list of 3,450 Rohingyas for return to the country of origin. The list has been shared with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Bangladesh earlier this month so that the agency could assist in checking whether the refugees wished to return voluntarily. The UNHCR, as part of its standard practice, asks the refugees to come forward and discuss matters relating to repatriation. Officials will meet and discuss issue with those who express their wish to go back. “Those who express a wish to return will be invited for a second interview to ensure the voluntariness of their decision. They will be asked to complete a voluntary repatriation form,” said UNHCR Spokesperson Joseph Tripura.

Through this, the UNHCR will aim to ensure that any return to Myanmar is voluntary, which is one of UNHCR’s most fundamental protection responsibilities, he said. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas poured into Bangladesh two years ago amid a military crackdown on them in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. “UNHCR and its partners are now reaching out to the Rohingya refugee community with information regarding the most recent developments,” Tripura said.

Asked if any list of the Rohingyas, who volunteered to return, has been prepared, he said, “The work is going on.” Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Mohammad Abul Kalam said Bangladesh was prepared to start the repatriation anytime. “We are waiting for the list [from the UNHCR] of those who volunteer to return to Myanmar,” he said. The government is working to start the repatriation on August 22.

The RRRC said as per rules, the names of those who volunteered to return will have to be handed over to the Myanmar authorities. Besides, the returnees will go through medical check-ups and will be taken to transit camps near the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. Bangladesh authorities have set up two transit camps. The Rohingyas who agree to return will be first taken to the transit camp and then to Myanmar border where the Myanmar authorities will receive them. “We have repaired the transit camps that were damaged by rain,” Kalam said, “Logistically, we are ready. Everything depends on the voluntariness of the Rohingyas.”

Many refugees said they were happy to know that Myanmar cleared the names of 3,450 Rohingyas. However, they still have doubts about their safety in Rakhine. Mohib Ullah, president of Rohingya Society for Humanity and Peace, said the Rohingyas do not want to live in Bangladesh as refugees. “They are always ready to return to their houses. But the Myanmar government will have to fulfil Rohingyas’ demands,” the resident of a Kutupalong refugee camp said.

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