The Latest: Bangladesh scraps Rohingya repatriation plan
COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — The Latest on plans by Bangladesh to start repatriating Rohingya refugees to Myanmar (all times local):
Bangladesh officials say plans to begin repatriating more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees to Myanmar have been scrapped after officials failed to find any who wanted to go.
Refugee Commissioner Abul Kalam told The Associated Press on Thursday that the refugees “are not willing to go back now,” adding that officials “can’t force them to go” but will continue to try to “motivate them so it happens.”
The announcement came after about 1,000 Rohingya demonstrated against returning to Myanmar, from where hundreds of thousands fled army-led violence last year.
A U.N.-brokered deal between Myanmar and Bangladesh says refugees can only be repatriated voluntarily.
U.N. officials and human-rights groups cautioned against beginning the process before the refugees’ safety had been assured.
About 1,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees demonstrated Thursday at a camp in Bangladesh against plans to repatriate them to Myanmar, from where hundreds of thousands fled army-led violence last year.
At the Unchiprang camp, one of the sprawling refugee settlements near the city of Cox’s Bazar, a Bangladeshi refugee official implored the Rohingya to return to their country over a loudspeaker.
“We have arranged everything for you, we have six buses here, we have trucks, we have food. We want to offer everything to you. If you agree to go, we’ll take you to the border, to the transit camp,” he said.
“We won’t go!” hundreds of voices, including children’s, chanted in reply.
Bangladesh authorities said the repatriation of some of the more than 700,000 Rohingya would begin Thursday if people were willing to go, despite calls from United Nations officials and human rights groups to hold off. But it’s not clear whether there are any volunteers.