Rohingya at Bangladesh camp resist repatriation plan to Myanmar

Overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh are home to more than a million Rohingya who have fled waves of violence in Myanmar

Chaos and confusion as Rohingya refugee repatriations set to begin

Frightened and angry Rohingya refugees on Thursday forced Bangladesh to call off efforts to start sending back some of the hundreds of thousands of the stateless Muslims to Myanmar, casting fresh doubt on a disputed repatriation programme. "We have our land, we have our homes", he said.

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.

The repatriation of a first group was to have begun on Thursday.

After the meeting, senior United States administration officials said Pence and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi discussed the importance of having Muslims from northern Rakhine return home, but only on a voluntary basis, with safety and dignity.

She said other refugee families living at the Jamtoli camp whose names have appeared on the Bangladesh government's repatriation list had fled to other camps, hoping to disappear amid the crowded lanes of refugees, aid workers and Bangladeshi soldiers.

"These women, men and children would be sent back into the Myanmar military's grasp with no protection guarantees, to live alongside those who torched their homes and whose bullets they fled", said Amnesty's Nicholas Bequelin. "As a result many families have fled and are hiding in nearby forests". "Whether they come back or not is their own decision".

"According to the UNHCR voluntariness assessment, none of the 50 families interviewed expressed their willingness to go back under the present circumstances.

If repatriation happens, maybe two years later they will drive us out again with beatings and torture".

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"I have seen reports that say conditions in Myanmar are still not suitable for return", he said.

"In America, we believe in our democratic institutions and ideals, including a free and independent press", he said.

Rohingya Muslims carry their young children and belongings after crossing the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh.

And last week, over 20 individuals on the list told Reuters they would refuse to return to Rakhine, as they were terrified. "No one knows what the situation really is in Myanmar, in Rakhine state". The village administrator quietly said they were all "terrorists".

So while the Myanmar government talks about building temporary shelters, offering medical care and sufficient food rations for Rohingyas who return, many worldwide observers insist the root causes of the violence and hate-filled attitudes need to be properly tackled before Rohingyas can return home and live with safety and dignity.

The rights groups say such plans will put the lives of many in danger.

Doubts over plans to begin repatriating the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled Myanmar previous year escalated Thursday as Bangladesh's refugee commissioner said none wanted to return and that they would not be forced to go.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption There's fear about the future in the camps Why are the Rohingya in Bangladesh? The mass violence followed decades of persecution of the Rohingya, who were stripped of their citizenship by a xenophobic military junta.

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Myanmar's government has trumpeted every occasion where a Rohingya family has returned, however many fear returning to Myanmar without guaranteed rights such as citizenship, access to healthcare and freedom of movement - rights that were denied to them long before last year's crackdown.

More than 700,000 Rohingya fled a sweeping army crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine State a year ago, according to United Nations agencies.

Since then, at least 700,000 Rohingyas have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. According to the head of the United Nations fact-finding mission, the genocide in Rakhine against the muslim minority is "still ongoing" and there were demonstrations this week among Buddhist Rakhine communities who protested against the return of the Rohingya.

Myanmar's army has previously cleared itself of wrongdoing and has rejected the UN's allegations.

Foreign leaders, including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, have criticized Myanmar's Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader Aung San Suu Kyi this week on the sidelines of a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore for her handling of the Rohingya crisis.

"The human rights violations committed against the Rohingya in Myanmar amount to the worst atrocities, including crimes against humanity and possibly even genocide", Ms Bachelet said.

Suu Kyi, responding to Pence, said people had different points of view.

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