Rohingya refugee children. Photograph:( Reuters )
'All necessary arrangements and preparation have been taken,' Bangladesh's refugee commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam told reporters, adding: 'Our primary target for tomorrow (Thursday) is 150 (Rohingya refugees) from 30 families.'
Bangladesh on Wednesday stuck by plans to begin repatriating some of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya minority who fled Myanmar last year, despite UN warnings and trepidation among the refugees themselves.
"All necessary arrangements and preparation have been taken," Bangladesh's refugee commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam told reporters, adding: "Our primary target for tomorrow (Thursday) is 150 (Rohingya refugees) from 30 families."
He said the process would involve Bangladesh handing the refugees, the first among a preliminary 2,260 currently in vast camps in southeastern Bangladesh, over to Myanmar at a transit point on the border between the two countries.
"There will be some verification process which is a very regular custom. That will happen there," Abul said.
More than 720,000 mostly Muslim Rohingya sought refuge from a Myanmar military crackdown launched from August last year that UN investigators say amounted to ethnic cleansing, joining some 300,000 already in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh says only those who volunteer will be returned, but UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Tuesday that many refugees are panicking at the prospect of being sent back against their will.
"With an almost complete lack of accountability –- indeed with ongoing violations -– returning Rohingya refugees to Myanmar at this point effectively means throwing them back into the cycle of human rights violations that this community has been suffering for decades," Bachelet said.
She said in a statement that the violations against the Rohingya "amount to the worst atrocities, including crimes against humanity and possibly even genocide."