Bangladesh is all set to repatriate around 3,540 Rohingya to Myanmar on Thursday. These people are presently living in different camps in Cox’s Bazar.
“Bangladesh is all set for Thursday’s repatriation. The last phase of work is underway,” said Chattogram’s Additional Divisional Commissioner Nurul Alam Nezami on Sunday.
If everything goes well, this process may expand further, said Nezami.
He made the statements at a task-force meeting at the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner's Office in Cox's Bazar.
Myanmar started preparations for taking back the Rohingyas after a high-level Myanmar delegation led by Myint Thu, the Permanent Secretary of the Myanmar Foreign Ministry, visited the Kutupalong Rohingya camp in Ukhia in July.
Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Md Abul Kalam, the district’s Deputy Commissioner Md Kamal Hossain, SP ABM Masud Hossain, representatives of the Bangladesh Army and the UNHCR were also present at the meeting.
Abul Kalam said Myanmar regularly provides verified lists of its Rohingya citizens, and if everything remains okay, the Rohingya will return to Myanmar across the Ghumdhum Maitri Bridge in Naikkhangchhari upazila and the Keruntoli repatriation route in Teknaf.
A wooden bridge, 33 houses and 4 toilets have been made for the Rohingya on the Bangladesh border, and members of 16 Ansar Battalion will be responsible for overseeing the transportation of the Rohingya refugees from the Bangladesh side, he added.
Since August 25, 2017, nearly one million Rohingya have crossed the border to reach Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh to save their lives following a brutal crackdown by Myanmar security forces.
According to the UNHCR, more than 723,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since then.
On September 28, 2018, at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said there are 1.1 million Rohingya refugees now in Bangladesh.
Reaction among Rohingyas over repatriation process
Sources say that many Rohingya have been going back to Myanmar secretly after facing torture and oppression by some extremist Rohingya who live in the camps and who are against repatriation.
These moderate Rohingya fear that if the anti-deportation extremists in the camps cannot be stopped, the repatriation process may fail again.
Rohingya leader of Balukhali camp Jobor Mulluk said that the Rohingya want to return home, but many of them do not express their desire to do so over fear for their lives. In the past, many Rohingya leaders have been killed for expressing their willingness to return.
Kutupalong camp Rohingya leaders Elias and Nur Mohammad said that many of the people who had expressed interest in returning to Myanmar had been threatened, murdered or had gone missing.
However, Rohingya leader Syedul Amin said Rohingya refugees became optimistic about their returning home after talks with the Myanmar team. He hoped the process will be successful.
Mohibullah, the Rohingya leader of Kutupalong II camp, said Rohingya people will leave Bangladesh willingly if their basic rights are guaranteed in Myanmar. But they should be provided citizenship as Rohingya Muslims there.
However, most Rohingya claimed that there is a doubt whether the attempt of August 22 will be fruitful as both Bangladesh and Myanmar failed to repatriate a selected number of Rohingyas despite having extensive preparation on November 15 last year.