Hundreds of Rohingya Muslim refugees protested on Thursday November 15th at a camp in Bangladesh against plans to send them to Myanmar, from where thousands fled army-led violence last year, according to AP.
Bangladesh authorities said the repatriation of some of the more than 700,000 Rohingya would begin on Thursday if people were willing to go, despite calls from the United Nations and human rights activists to hold it back. The UN-brokered repatriation deal was agreed on by Bangladesh and Myanmar last October. However, Bangladesh has pledged not to force anyone to return and it has asked the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to make sure those short-listed to return really want to go back.
"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," a Bangladeshi refugee official implored the Rohingya to return to their country over a loudspeaker.
"No, no! We won't go!" hundreds of protesters, including children, chanted in the Unchiprang camp in south-east Bangladesh.
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."
Despite assurances from Myanmar, human rights activists said on Thursday the conditions are not yet safe for Rohingya refugees to return.
"Nothing the Myanmar government has said or done suggests that the Rohingya will be safe upon return," Human Rights Watch refugee rights director Bill Frelick said in a statement.
The huge migration of Rohingya began in August last year when people began to escape violence and a brutal crackdown by Myanmar forces in western Rakhine state following attacks by an insurgent group on guard posts. The scale and viciousness of the operation led to accusations from the international community, including the UN, of ethnic cleansing and genocide.