Plans for some Rohingya refugees to begin returning to Myanmar from Bangladesh will not proceed because officials say none are willing to go back, The Associated Pressreported Thursday.
More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees, members of a minority ethnic group that is largely Muslim, fled to Bangladesh to escape violence and persecution in Myanmar in the past year. Bangladesh's plan was for about 2,000 of them to begin returning Thursday, per BBC News. But the United Nations, which has classified the violence in Myanmar as "textbook genocide," brokered an agreement that means that nobody can be forced into going, and many say they are terrified at the prospect. "We are scared to return to Myanmar because if we go they will kill us," one refugee told CNN. Human rights organizations agree that it is not yet safe for the refugees to return, per AP.
Some refugees staged protests in refugee camps ahead of the planned start of the repatriation process, and the head of Bangladesh's refugee commission had said that they "have not found any volunteers" who would return but would "continue looking," CNN reports. Officials told the refugees that buses were ready to take them to Myanmar, but they chanted back, "We won't go!"
Now, the refugee commission says that the refugees are "not willing to go back now" but they will keep trying to "motivate them so it happens." Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday condemned Myanmar's actions, saying that "the violence and persecution by military and vigilantes that resulted in driving 700,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh is without excuse." Brendan Morrow