DHAKA: Rohingya refugees at the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps have voiced doubts over repatriation proposals delivered by U Myint Thu, Myanmar’s permanent secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Thu visited about 60 Rohingya community leaders at the Cox’s Bazar camps on Wednesday.
During the meeting, Thu proposed that the Rohingya be kept mainly in two newly built transit camps at Tombru and Nagpura in Mongdu district.
Refugees will stay from two to three days in the transit camps, where they will be offered national verification cards.
Under the proposals the refugees will then be sent to a newly built camp at Lapugong, in the north of Mongdu, which can hold up to 30,000 people.
Refugees will be required to stay for five months in the camp before being returned to their original villages. They will also be eligible to apply for citizenship, according to Rohingya leaders.
However, several community leaders who attended the meeting with Thu told Arab News they were far from convinced by Thu’s proposals.
Mohammad Nur, secretary of a Kutupalang camp that houses 57,000 refugees, said: “During the violence in 2012 in Akiab, about 150,000 Rohingya were displaced from their homes and were sheltered at IPD camp in Mongdu. Even after six years these Rohingya are not allowed to go back home.
“So how can we rely on these types of assurance that after five months we will be allowed to go back our original places?
“We have demanded full citizenship, the deployment of international security forces in Rakhine, and the recognition of Rohingya like other ethnic groups in Myanmar. But Thu did not utter a single word regarding these demands,” Nur said.
“If the situation in Rakhine continues in this way and our demands are not fulfilled, I don’t think any of our Rohingya will be interested in going back.”
Community leaders also claimed that the UN or Bangladesh government had yet to discuss the mid-November repatriation issue with them.
Fairas Al-Kateeb, UNHCR spokesperson in Cox’s Bazar, told Arab News: “We believe (the situation) is not conducive for a return at the moment and that’s why this whole process needs to be reassessed. Any return of the refugees should be handled with dignity and on a voluntary
Highlighting the role of the UN refugee agency in the repatriation process, he said: “It will take time to evaluate. We cannot take decisions under pressure.”
After his visit to the Rohingya camps, Thu told reporters that in February 2018 Myanmar had received a list of 8,032 Rohingya from the Bangladesh authorities.
“We have already verified about 5,000 and from that the first batch will be around 2,000 people and then the second batch will follow,” he said “So, in mid-November we will receive the first batch.
“We are here to meet with people from the camps so that I can explain what we have prepared for their return. Then I can listen to their voices.”
However, Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, told Arab News that his government had already handed over a list of another 22,000 Rohingya to be verified by the Myanmar authority.
More than 1 million Rohingya refugees have been living in the Cox’s Bazar camps since August 2017 following a crackdown by Myanmar army described as a “clearance operation against the insurgent groups.”