By Md. Kamruzzaman
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - Uncertainty is mounting over Thursday’s scheduled repatriation of more than 3,500 Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh's makeshift refugee camps to neighboring Myanmar.
"Without full citizenship rights, resettlement in the same place in Rakhine state, Myanmar where they fled the August 2017 crackdown, as well as safety guarantees with the presence of the international community, no Rohingya will return," Master Abdur Rahim, a Rohingya leader in Bangladesh’s Cox's Bazar refugee camps, told Anadolu Agency Tuesday.
On Aug. 15, Myanmar announced that a total of 3,540 Rohingya refugees, out of more than 22,000 names sent by Bangladesh, "have been cleared for return to Myanmar" on Aug. 22.
Representatives from the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, and Bangladesh's Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC) have started interviewing the listed Rohingya over whether they are interested in returning, according to camp sources and local media reports.
But many Rohingya fear facing the same repression they fled since Aug. 25, 2017, said Rahim. "Rohingya people who are still inside Myanmar are facing discrimination and many of them are locked up in internally displaced camps (IDPs). So how can we rely on them?"
Myanmar has said that repatriated Rohingya will be provided with National Verification Cards (NVC) and they can apply for full citizenship cards within the next six months.
Rohingya leaders, however, voiced skepticism, as Myanmar has not provided any such chances to those who have been living inside Myanmar for years.
"Previous NVCs called Rohingya people ‘illegal Bengali,’ and most of us refused to accept those cards," a Rohingya leader who asked not to be named due to safety concerns told Anadolu Agency.
Md Abul Kalam, head of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission, told Anadolu Agency that no Rohingya will be repatriated forcefully. "It is a voluntary process, only the interested Rohingya will be repatriated if found," he said.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women, and children, fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."