295 Rohingya families interviewed so far regarding their opinion on repatriation
No Rohingya has turned up for repatriation from Bangladesh to Myanmar.
The second attempt at repatriation failed to kick off on Thursday. The Rohingyas were scheduled to be sent back through Kerontoli Ghat border point at Teknaf and Tambru border point at Ghumdhum in Bandarban’s Naikhongchhari.
D-day comes today for 3450 #Rohingya refugees in #CoxsBazaar facing calls to return to #Rakhine state. @hrw calls for #Myanmar & #Bangladesh to suspend refugee repatriation plans until conditions back in #Burma are safe & rights of returnees guaranteed. https://t.co/VQbr5K1NgZ— Phil Robertson (@Reaproy) August 22, 2019
Commissioner of Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC) Mohammad AbulKalam said no one will be repatriated on Thursday.
He made the announcement at a press briefing held at Shalbagan in Teknaf, Cox's Bazar. An official from the Myanmar Embassy and two officials from the Chinese Embassy were also present.
However, the RRRC Commissioner said: “Interviews of the Rohingyas will continue. After completing the interviews of all the 1,037 enlisted Rohingya families at Shalbagan camp, we will be able to confirm if they are willing to go back or not.
“Of the families we have interviewed so far, we have found none who are willing to go back. But we hope that they will change their mind," he said.
Kalam continued: "I would like to stress that a high-level team from Myanmar had visited Cox’s Bazar on July 27 to 28,"
"They held meetings with the different Rohingya groups during those two days, and we have seen the positive impact of that. The number of Rohingya people whohave voluntarily come in for interviews is high this time compared to before."
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"The safety and security measures we have taken so far have also assured them that they have nothing to fear and we have convinced them that they will not be repatriated forcibly," he said.
"That is why they came in on their own volition and have shared their concerns with us. This process will continue."
“The Rohingya repatriation is not starting on Thursday. I have previously said that this interview process will continue from 9am to 4pm. We have not found anyoneyet, but it cannot be speculated that we will not find anyone else during the rest of the days,” the RRRC commissioner added.
Till now, 295 Rohingya families have been interviewed by representatives of both UNHCR- the UN refugee agency- and RRRC, regarding their opinion on repatriation.
The interviews will continue from 9am to 4pm every day till all the enlisted families are interviewed. For now, the refugees will continue to take shelter in Bangladesh.
Over 1.1 million Rohingyas are living in a number of refugee camps at Teknaf and Ukhiyaupazilas of Cox’s Bazar.
Over 700,000 of them crossed over the border, fleeing brutal persecution carried out by the Myanmar security forces, local Buddhist mobs and people from different ethnic groups since August 25, 2017.
Majority Rohingyas still adamant
Even after authorities told the Rohingyas that Myanmar is ready to accept them as its nationals, many of the refugees interviewed on Wednesday said they would not go back to their homeland until the government guaranteed meeting their set of demands, which includes citizenship.
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During a visit to the Shalbagan camp on Wednesday, a number of Rohingya refugees, enlisted for repatriation, stressed that they would only go back if their demands are met by the Myanmar government first.
Sources said many enlisted Rohingya families have also been moving around camps to avoid being called for the interviews. It is believed that they are staying with relatives for days, trying to hide from the authorities.
Nur Mohammad of Buthidaung, Rakhine state, who crossed over in 2017, did not go to the camp-in-charge’s (CIC) office on Wednesday to meet the officials for his interview.
The repatriation process since 2018
Under immense international pressure, Myanmar had signed an agreement with Bangladesh in January 2018 to take back the Rohingyas.
Following a series of painstaking discussions between a proactive Bangladesh and an unwilling Myanmar, the two countries attempted to begin repatriation on November 15 last year, but the effort failed mainly due to the unwillingness of the Rohingyas, and objections from the international community on different grounds.
Mere verification of #Rohingya refugees to take them back is not enough to ensure their safety and dignity in Myanmar. The country must end the apartheid conditions and hold the military accountable to show genuine intent for repatriation. pic.twitter.com/oI48ywhlNv— Saad Hammadi (@saadhammadi) August 21, 2019
The refugees had maintained that there was no guarantee that Myanmar will ensure their dignified return and establish their identity as Myanmar nationals.
Since the failed attempt, there has been no further development in the repatriation process- until now.
On July 27 this year, a high-level government delegation from Myanmar visited Cox’s Bazar to directly interact with the Rohingyas - the first since the crisis began in 2017.