POST TIME: 23 August, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 23 August, 2019 01:44:48 AM
Rohingya repatriation move falls flat again

Rohingya repatriation 
move falls flat again

Bangladesh police walk past buses that were to be used to repatriate Rohingyas from Bangladesh to Myanmar, at Shalbagan camp in Teknaf upazila of Cox’s Bazar yesterday. Inset, a driver rests in one of the buses as no Rohingya turned up to hop on five buses and 10 trucks laid on by Bangladesh. More photos on page 2. AFP photos

The stage was set to send back the first batch of displaced Rohingya people to their homeland in Myanmar but they ignored the call of the authorities, saying several of their demands, especially their security and granting of Myanmar citizenship, had to be met first. The displaced Rohigyas, who were in the list of those to be repatriated, said they did not want to go back to Rakhine, where they had been persecuted by the Myanmar army. He claimed the environment there was not conducive to their return.

 Commissioner of Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC) Abul Kalam told journalists in Cox’s Bazar, “The Rohingya people don’t want to go back until their demands are met.”  Meanwhile, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said that trust deficit among the Rohingya people and instigation by certain NGOs were primarily responsible for the thwarting of the repatriation.

 He said it had been suggested before the 4th joint working group meeting between the two countries that Rohingya leaders should be taken to Rakhine to show them the prevailing situation there to create confidence among them.

 The minister further said a commission would be formed with representatives of different countries.  The minister said this to journalists at his office yesterday.

 When the repatriation date for the first batch was fixed as August 22, the Rohingyas on that list became vocal with certain demands such as citizenship, freedom of movement, reclamation of their abandoned property and security.

 Abul Kalam along with the representatives of Myanmar, China and Bangladesh foreign minister were present at the Rohingya camp in the Jadimora teak forest at Teknaf for the repatriation process to start.

 Kalam told journalists: “Myanmar handed over a list containing the names of 3,540 Rohingyas to the Bangladesh government. We are holding their

interviews. So far, we have completed interviews of 295 families till 12pm. But were unable to persuade anyone to go back to Myanmar without conditions.”  He further said, “The Bangladesh government had taken all preparations to start the repatriation process on August 22. If anyone of the Rohingyas wants to go back without any condition, the person will be sent back.”

 He kept saying that the interviews would continue to get their consent to return.  “The Bangladesh government has been repeatedly saying that none will be forcibly sent back. So the interview is going on to encourage them to return to their place of origin in Rakhine,” he added.

 The authorities of the UNHCR and Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission made preparations at the Ghumdhum border at Naikhanchhari.

 But none arrived at the Ghumdhum transit point till 4pm.

 Sources said that three buses and two trucks had been kept ready to take the Rohingyas to their home. A large number of law enforcers were deployed to ensure trouble-free repatriation.  “Our survey through interviews will continue to get the consent of the Rohingya people for their repatriation. If anybody wants to go back, they are is welcome. The process will continue,” Abul Kalam told The Independent yesterday.

 “Tomorrow being a holiday, the process will resume on Saturday,” he added.  It was the second attempt to start repatriation, but it has virtually been thwarted. The first attempt was made on November 15 last year but that failed as Rohingyas expressed doubts about safety and dignified return.

 Bangladesh has been hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas since the influx began mainly from August 25, 2017.