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Updated on August 23, 2019 From Mizzmia

No refugees turn up for repatriation to Myanmar

A fresh push to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Myanmar fall flat on Thursday, with no one turning up to hop on five buses and 10 trucks laid on by Bangladesh.

Members of the Muslim minority, 740,000 of whom fled a military offensive in 2017, are refusing to return without guarantees for their safety and a promise that they will at last be given citizenship by Myanmar.

"We need a real guarantee of citizenship, security and promise of original homelands," said Mohammad Islam, a Rohingya from Camp 26, one of a string of sites in southeast Bangladesh that are home to around a million people.

"So we must talk with the Myanmar government about this before repatriation."

The vehicles provided to transport the first batch out of 3,450 earmarked for return turned up at 9:00 am (0300 GMT) at the camp in Teknaf.

But more than six hours later none had showed up and the vehicles departed empty. Officials said they would return on Friday.

"We've interviewed 295 families. But nobody has yet shown any interest to repatriate," Bangladesh Refugee Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam told reporters.

He said that officials would continue to interview families.

The latest repatriation attempt -- a previous push failed in November with many of those on a returnees list going into hiding -- follows a visit last month to the camps by high-ranking officials from Myanmar.

Bangladesh's foreign ministry forwarded a list of more than 22,000 refugees to Myanmar for verification and Naypyidaw cleared 3,450 individuals for "return".

Rohingya community leader Jafar Alam told AFP the refugees had been gripped by fear since authorities announced the fresh repatriation process.

They also feared being sent to camps for internally displaced people (IDP) if they went back to Myanmar.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen told a TV channel in Dhaka that Thursday's no-show was "very disappointing" but he hoped "good sense would finally prevail".

"The Rohingya want to achieve all their demands by taking us (Bangladesh) as hostage. But I don't know how long we can accept it," he told Jamuna TV.

Chinese and Myanmar diplomats were also at the Rohingya refugee camp.

The latest repatriation attempt comes in the wake of July talks between Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

China is a key ally of Myanmar, and Hasina said then that Beijing would "do whatever is required" to help resolve the Rohingya crisis.

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