By Ruma Paul
DHAKA (Reuters) – Bangladesh will work with the United Nations refugee agency to determine if more than 3,000 Rohingya refugees will accept Myanmar’s offer to return home, an official said on Monday, nearly a year after a major repatriation plan failed.
More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine for camps in Bangladesh after a military-led crackdown in August 2017 the United Nations has said was perpetrated with “genocidal intent”, but many refugees refuse to go back, fearing more violence.
“It will be a joint exercise led by UNHCR,” Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, told Reuters by telephone on Monday, referring to the refugee agency.
Myanmar has cleared 3,450 people from a list of more than 22,000 refugees provided by Bangladesh, government spokesman Zaw Htay told a news conference in the capital Naypyitaw on Friday.
“We have already negotiated with Bangladesh to accept these 3,450 people on August 22,” he said, adding they would be divided into seven groups for repatriation.
A foreign ministry spokesman previously gave Reuters a figure of 3,540 refugees verified under the plan. [nL4N25B2B4]
Zaw Htay said officials had scrutinized the list to determine whether the refugees had lived in Myanmar and whether they had been involved in attacks on the military.
The 2017 crackdown was preceded by attacks on security forces by insurgents calling themselves the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which Myanmar has classified as a terrorist organisation.
Previous attempts at persuading Rohingya to return to Rakhine have failed due to opposition from refugees. An effort in November sowed fear and confusion in the camps, and finally failed after refugee protests.
(Additional reporting by Thu Thu Aung; Writing by Poppy McPherson; Editing by Darren Schuettler)