Bangladesh halts forced Rohingya repatriation

Dhaka, Bangladesh Published: Nov 16, 2018, 07:00 AM(IST)

File photo of Rohingya Refugees. Photograph:( Reuters )

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'No one will be forced back to Myanmar. They survived atrocities so it's natural they fear to go back,' the commissioner told Al Jazeera.

Muhammad Abdul Kalam, the Commissioner of the Bangladesh Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission, stated that the Rohingya will not be forced to return to Myanmar on Thursday, the same day that the first scheduled repatriation was slated to take place.

"No one will be forced back to Myanmar. They survived atrocities so it's natural they fear to go back," the commissioner told Al Jazeera.

However, he further told Anadolu News Agency that the formal process has not been suspended, adding that the Bangladeshi government will resume talks with Rohingya to persuade them for their willful return.

Troops have been deployed at Rohingya camps in Bangladesh to prevent a violent breakout, while a protest was held by the Rohingya at Cox's Bazar against the forceful repatriation citing a risk to their lives in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

Earlier, Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi had been stripped of Amnesty's top honour, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, due to her stance on the "crimes against humanity committed by the military against the Rohingya," according to Amnesty`s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo.

Myanmar and Bangladesh had agreed on the repatriation of the Rohingya following the third Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting held last month, leading to concerns being raised by the international community, including the United Nations, who emphasised on the need for a dignified and voluntary return.

Myanmar was given a list of 22,000 Rohingya for repatriation by Bangladesh, out of which Naypyidaw agreed for the return of 5,000 Rohingya in the first phase scheduled for November 15.

Naypyidaw had previously signed an agreement with Dhaka to resettle around one million Rohingya currently living as refugees in Bangladesh.

Rohingya are a minority ethnic group in Myanmar, who are fleeing brutal military clampdowns and violence in their native country. 

According to Amnesty International, the Myanmar security forces killed thousands, raped women and girls, detained and tortured men and boys and burned hundreds of homes and villages to the ground in the Rakhine state last year, forcing these individuals to flee for their safety. 

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