Cox's Bazar: thousands of Rohingya refugees want to go home
The refugees want to be repatriated to Rakhine State, which they fled in 2017 following attacks by Myanmar’s military. Feeling forgotten by the international community, they urge the UN to intervene. Bangladeshi minister bemoans the lack of progress on the issue of repatriation.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Thousands of Rohingya refugees held a protest yesterday in a camp in Cox’s Bazar, on the eve of the UN-designated World Refugee Day, to demand that they be allowed to return to Rakhine, the state in Myanmar which they consider their homeland.
Victims of ethnic and religious persecution, more than a million Rohingya refugees currently live in Bangladesh.
For Mohammad Zafar, one of their leaders in Cox's Bazar, many of his fellow Rohingya are ready to go back to Rakhine despite the opposition of Rohingya terror groups. “We are no longer afraid of their weapons. We want to go home,” he said.
In the summer of 2017, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army launched a series of attacks on positions held by the Myanmar Armed Forces, killing 12 people.
The response by Myanmar’s military was swift and very harsh. Some 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, triggering a still unresolved humanitarian and health crisis of vast proportions. According to Myanmar, the Rohingya are irregular immigrants.
Another Rohingya leader, Mohammad Noor, explained that the repatriation initiative is designed to attract the attention of the international community.
“The international community, the United Nations, seems to have forgotten us,” he said. “We thought the world would not do anything for us if we sat like this.”
He noted that refugees in the camps face many problems, such as education for young people.
Still, not every Rohingya in Cox's Bazar is ready to return to Myanmar. Many want the issue of citizenship settled first as well as reassurances that they will be protected.
Enamur Rahman, Bangladesh's Minister for Emergencies, said there was no progress on the Rohingya repatriation file.
“We believe the solution to the Rohingya crisis lies in the safe return of the displaced people back home,” he explained. “I seek support from the international community so that Myanmar took back the Rohingyas ensuring their security and rights as citizens.”