Rohingya Refugees Long for Home but Bangladesh Says Still Too Volatile

By Reuters 21 June 2019

COX’S BAZAR—Rohingya Muslim refugees in camps in Bangladesh long to go back to their homes in Myanmar but a Bangladeshi official said on Thursday things were still too volatile for a safe return.

More than 700,000 Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh in 2017, according to U.N. agencies, after a crackdown by Myanmar’s military sparked by Rohingya insurgent attacks on the security forces.

Several hundred Rohingya refugees rallied at the Kutupalong camp, near the southeast Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazar, on Thursday to mark World Refugee Day.

“No more refugee life, we want to return to our homeland,” the refugees chanted.

Some held up placards that read: “We want a life of freedom, peace and dignity.”

Myanmar regards Rohingya Muslims as illegal migrants from the Indian subcontinent.

U.N. investigators have said the 2017 Myanmar military operation that drove more the Rohingya into Bangladesh was executed with “genocidal intent” and included mass killings, gang rapes and widespread arson.

Mostly Buddhist Myanmar denies widespread wrongdoing and says the military campaign across hundreds of villages in the north of Rakhine State was in response to the attacks by Rohingya insurgents.

Last year, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to begin to repatriate the refugees but the plan has been opposed by many of the refugees, who want Myanmar to agree to certain conditions first.

The U.N. refugee agency and aid groups are also doubtful about the plan as they fear for the safety of Rohingya in Myanmar.

“The situation is volatile there due to fighting between the army and insurgent groups,” said Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, who visited the refugees on Thursday.

“But we’re still trying to begin repatriation as soon as possible.”

With the repatriation plan largely stalled, Bangladesh has been considering relocating the Rohingya refugees to an island in the Bay of Bengal, but some have expressed concerns that this could lead to a new crisis given the island is vulnerable to cyclones.

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