Myanmar officials have met with Rohingya refugee families in Bangladesh to discuss their repatriation to Myanmar.
The officials travelled to Bangladesh on Tuesday to meet with refugees amid a new repatriation plan brokered by China. The push is part of a pilot repatriation scheme discussed in a three-way meeting between the two countries and China in April.
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Bangladesh hosts nearly one million Rohingya refugees, most of whom fled Myanmar in 2017, when the military launched what the United Nations describes as a campaign with “genocidal intent” against the mostly-Muslim minority.
The team of Myanmar officials arrived at Teknaf, a river port just across from their shared border with Bangladesh, to meet with several dozen Rohingya families.
“They will discuss repatriation with the Rohingya today and verify their identity,” Shamsud Douza, the deputy refugee commissioner of Bangladesh, told reporters.
Many of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh live in overcrowded, dangerous and under-resourced refugee camps, and several previous attempts to broker their return home have failed due to reluctance from Myanmar.
The refugees have also refused to go back, fearing further persecution.
Under the repatriation plan, brokered during a three-way meeting between the two countries and China, Myanmar has agreed to accept the return of around 3,000 refugees by December.
“They are ready to accept them. But the Rohingya are not ready to go. That’s the challenge,” a Bangladeshi government official told AFP.
Rohingya community leaders remain wary, saying that they will return only with certain guarantees, such as citizenship and resettlement on their own land.
“We are interested to go back to our country if Myanmar takes us back to our place of origin, gives us dignity, and fulfils all our rights,” said Khin Maung, a prominent leader.
Although Bangladesh insists that repatriation would be voluntary, some Rohingya earmarked for the return programme claim that they had been threatened into joining.