Rohingya return to Myanmar: Confusion and fear in refugee camps

Sitting next to Aung San Suu Kyi US Vice President Mike Pence condemned the

Kalam earlier told ucanews.com that if anyone was unwilling to return to Rakhine, they would not be forced.

The United Nations could be ambivalent about repatriation after receiving feedback from refugees at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, where the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are overseeing the camps.

Several thousand Rohingya instead staged protests declining to go back to Myanmar as Bangladesh began preparations to repatriate an initial batch of 2,000 Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar, in line with a plan agreed with Myanmar in October.

They say they do not want to go back until Myanmar grants them citizenship with access to basic rights such as health and education and ensures security through the United Nations. Meanwhile, about 27 refugee families were chosen for repatriation broke out into a protest at a camp in Teknaf in the afternoon saying that they would not go back to Myanmar unless they are not granted citizenship. The terms of the repatriation deal have yet to be made public.

Marzuki Darusman, the chairman of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, said beyond mass killings, the conflict included the ostracisation of the population, prevention of births, and widespread displacement in camps.

The forcible return of refugees violates the principle on non-refoulement, an absolute prohibition in global treaties and customary worldwide law on returning people to a territory where they could face a risk to their lives or other serious human rights violations.

"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.

"Forcibly expelling or returning refugees and asylum seekers to their home country would be a clear violation of the core legal principle of non-refoulement, which forbids repatriation where there are threats of persecution or serious risks to the life and physical integrity or liberty of the individuals".

He told several reporters that the conflict between the Rohingya and Myanmar's government is not resolved, and "so many" Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine are flattened that there is no place to go back to.

"In Rakhine State, crimes against humanity continue today".

Our houses in original villages must be rebuilt before we return.

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"They brutally tortured us", he said, breaking down in tears. Most of the Hindu families have Nationality Verification Cards provided by the Myanmar authorities in the past.

Bangladesh officials on Thursday held several rounds of meetings with the Rohingya in their effort to motivate them to return home but said they were at liberty to decide on their return.

Refugee commissioner Abul Kalam told The Associated Press that he and other officials would go to Unchiprang, one of the sprawling refugee camps near the city of Cox's Bazar, to urge some of the more than 700,000 Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh past year to go back to Myanmar voluntarily. "As a result many families have fled and are hiding in nearby forests".

Pence also told her Americans believe in a "free and independent press", saying Myanmar's jailing of two Reuters journalists last December who had been covering the massacre of the Rohingya was "deeply troubling".

It's not clear what will happen now, though Reuters reports that Kalam "called on the worldwide community to put pressure on Myanmar to accept 'some logical and acceptable demands, ' in order for any repatriation to take place".

He added Thursday that securing justice for the victims of "atrocities" in Rakhine state was a condition for better Myanmar-US relations. "This obviously raises concern".

But on Thursday, Pence said that US officials were "encouraged to hear that" the repatriation process would begin.

Bangladesh Refugee Commissioner Abul Kalam told reporters that the refugees can not be forced to return to Myanmar under the terms of the agreement.

"That Dhaka deployed its army into the camps is a red flag that this terrified community is not willing to return".

The huge exodus of Rohingya began in August 2017 after Myanmar security forces launched a brutal crackdown following attacks by an insurgent group on guard posts.

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