Bangladesh has said it will not start sending back Rohinga Muslim refugees from January 23 as agreed earlier with Myanmar.
The process of compiling and verifying the list of people to be sent back is incomplete, transit camps where they will stay are not yet ready and “a number of issues remain unresolved”, a Bangladeshi official said, according to AP.
Bangladesh had finalised an agreement with Myanmar on January 16 to send back thousands of Rohingya refugees who have been fleeing violence in their country since August 2017. The repatriation process was to begin on January 23 and last two years.
However, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and rehabilitation commissioner Abul Kalam said on Monday the repatriation process would have to be delayed. He did not say when it would begin again. “There are many things remaining,” he told Reuters.
“The main thing is that the process has to be voluntary,” Kalam told AP.
Bangladesh’s decision comes at a time when several Rohingyas in refugee camps have opposed the deal between the two countries, saying Myanmar has not promised them enough security.
In a petition last week, the community listed its demands. Among them is a demand that the Myanmar government publicly announce that it is giving the Rohingyas citizenship – which they have long been denied. The government must also include the community on a list of the country’s recognised ethnic groups, they demanded.
The Rohingyas want the Myanmar government to return the land they occupied to rebuild their homes, mosques and schools. The community also wants the military to be held accountable for the alleged killing, looting and rape of Rohingyas during the violence that broke out in 2017.
Myanmar, meanwhile, said they were ready to receive the Rohingyas. “We are ready to accept them once they come back,” Ko Ko Naing, director general of Myanmar’s Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, said.
The refugee crisis
The violence in the Rakhine state in Myanmar erupted on August 25, 2017, after a militant attack on security forces resulted in a violent crackdown. Lakhs of Rohingyas have since fled to Bangladesh, where they have been living in cramped refugee camps. According to the United Nations migration agency, there are at least 6,88,000 Rohingya refugees currently.
Several international organisations have condemned the violence.
The United Nations and the United States called it an “ethnic cleansing” of the Muslim minority, while the Human Rights Watch said the Myanmar military massacred people and raped, arbitrarily arrested and set ablaze hundreds of predominantly Rohingya villages in Rakhine.