Bangladesh 'ready' for Rohingya repatriation on Thursday

Cox's Bazar Correspondent
Published : 23:16, Aug 21, 2019 | Updated : 23:17, Aug 21, 2019

Rohingya refugees carry bricks to a construction site at the Balukhali camp in Cox`s Bazar, Bangladesh, April 8, 2019. REUTERS/File PhotoBangladesh is all set to start the reparation of the first batch of Rohingya refugees to the Rakhine State of Myanmar on Thursday (Aug 22) , says an official.
"All preparation has been taken. If everything goes well reparation of Rohingyas may start between 10am and 4pm on Thursday," said Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Md Abul Kalam on Wednesday (Aug 21).
Five buses and two trucks have been kept standby at Bandarban's Ghumdhum transit point in addition to taking tight security measures along the border, he added.
Representatives of UN refugee agency UNHCR and RRRC interviewed 235 Rohingya families at Shalbagan Rohingya camp in Teknaf upzila on Tuesday and Wednesday to determine whether the refugees are willing to return .
"We will now prepare the database on these families tonight (Wednesday) and those who will voluntarily get on the vehicles in Thursday morning will only be repatriated [to Rakhaine]," said Kalam.
Asked how many Rohingyas would be repatriated on the first day, the official said they would clarify the figure in the morning.
Earlier on Jul 29, Bangladesh handed a fresh list of 25,000 Rohingyas from around 6,000 families to Myanmar for verification before their repatriation to Rakhine State. Myanmar, however, cleared 3,450 people to return.
Myanmar said they had scrutinized the list of refugees to determine whether they had lived in Myanmar and had been involved in attacks on the military, according to a Reuters report.
More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine for neighbouring Bangladesh after a military-led crackdown in August 2017 the United Nations has said was perpetrated with "genocidal intent", but many refugees refuse to go back, fearing more violence.
The 2017 crackdown was preceded by attacks on security forces by insurgents calling themselves the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which Myanmar has classified as a terrorist organization.
Previous attempts to send back the Rohingya to Rakhine have failed due to opposition from refugees, even sparked protest in the refugee camps.
On Jan 16, 2018 Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a document on “Physical Arrangement”, which stipulates that the repatriation will be completed preferably within two years from the start.
The first batch of the refugees was scheduled to return on Nov 15, 2018, which was put on hold due to unwillingness from the Rohingyas what the stateless people said they feared lack of safe environment in their homeland.