Dhaka, Aug 22 (IANS) A second attempt to repatriate Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh to Myanmar hit a snag on Thursday as the refugees remained reluctant to return to their homeland, officials here said.
Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Md Abul Kalam said that the Bangladesh authorities made all the necessary arrangements but none of the Rohingyas were willing to return on their own volition, bdnews24.com reported.
The repatriation bid came ahead of the second anniversary of the Myanmar Army crackdown on August 25, 2017 that spurred the mass exodus of 740,000 Rohingyas across the border where they have since languished in sprawling refugee camps.
Bangladesh and Myanmar last week decided to begin the repatriation of 3,450 Rohingyas on Thursday after a failed attempt to do so in November 2018 due to the lack of volunteers.
Despite the situation, Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Momen refused to call off the efforts. Speaking to reporters at his office in Dhaka, he said: “We remain hopeful. It’s Myanmar’s problem and they need to resolve it. We won’t force anything.”
Local authorities said on Wednesday that they had so far interviewed 235 families willing to be repatriated, according to Efe news. The interviews were being conducted by UN refugee agency UNHCR along with Bangladeshi officials.
One of the Rohingyas who went for an interview on Thursday was Nur Hossain, a 41-year-old driver who fled Myanmar when the attacks by the military began.
Hossain said that he will not return to Myanmar with the eight members of his family, including six daughters and a son, until certain demands are met.
“We need to be given the Rohingya card, our safety has to be ensured and Myanmar must release people they are holding in IDP (internally displaced person) camps,” he said.
When they guarantee these requests, “it will make me believe they will not restrict my freedom once I go back”, he added.
The Myanmar government has said that it will provide “National Verification Cards” to Rohingyas, which will establish their residency in the country, but not their citizenship – which is one of the main demands of the community.
The government considers Rohingyas illegal immigrants from Bangladesh even though they have been in the country for centuries.
Most Rohingyas in Myanmar were stripped of their citizenship in the early 1990s.
The mass exodus of Rohingyas began almost two years ago when a Rohingya rebel group carried out a series of attacks against security posts in Rakhine state in western Myanmar, which unleashed a brutal campaign by the country’s Army against the community.
UN observers described the Army crackdown as “ethnic cleansing”.