On Thursday, Bangladesh and Myanmar had set to repatriate thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled a brutal army crackdown last year, to Myanmar. However, by late afternoon no-one agreed to return, according to Bangladeshi authorities.
Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief, Mohammed Abdul Kalam has said: “We have not found any volunteers. We will continue looking”. He then added: “We will not force anyone to go back to Myanmar against his or her will, though authorities would continue to try to ‘motivate’ refugees to leave”.
More than 2,000 Rohingya refugees had been put on the list for repatriation to Myanmar, without their consent. The plan was to send them back on Thursday, however by Wednesday night almost all had gone into hiding in other camps and nearby forests.
In August 2017, more than 720,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh after a systematic campaign by the Myanmar military began. A UN fact-finding mission had described the event which included many reports of mass rape and murder, as “genocide”.
A 60-year-old Rohingya refugee Rahima Khatun has told CNN: “I am scared I was told that if we don’t go back our house here will be broken. I would rather eat poison or jump from the boat and die rather than go back”.
Another Rohingya refugee Majeda has said: “We are scared to return to Myanmar because if we go they will kill us”.
International rights groups have strictly objected the plans to return the Rohingyas in fear that they will continue to face persecution and live without the freedom of movement or the right to a livelihood.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is not endorsing returns but is willing to help those who choose to go back. They have stated that the threatening conditions in Myanmar are not safe for refugees to be repatriated.