Bangladesh today confirmed the beginning of the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees, who fled from Burma (Myanmar) after a violent military offensive, on Thursday, the 15th, despite the UN warnings of the lack of conditions for the return.
"The decision is that the repatriation (of the Rohinyas) will begin on November 15," Abul Kalam, the Bangladesh Refugee Aid and Repatriation Commissioner, told Efe.
Both governments agreed to repatriate 2,251 of the more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees who live in camps in Bangladesh, in the first stage of a multi-phase process.
The initial phase could be completed in two weeks with the transfer of groups of approximately 150 rohinyas per day, Kalam added.
However, the official said that so far the local authorities have not yet obtained the consent of the refugees who will be part of the group that should be repatriated in the first phase.
The United Nations Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) warned yesterday that conditions are not safe for the return of Rohingya refugees to Burma.
A spokesman for UNHCR in Cox's Bazar, the town that hosts the largest camp of this ethnic minority, told Efe today that the role of the organization will only be to monitor that it is "voluntary."
"UNHCR will evaluate the voluntary participation of refugees, we will begin this process very soon and at the moment we can not speculate on the outcome," said UNHCR spokesperson Firas al Khateeb.
"The Government of Bangladesh has also stressed that any return will be voluntary," he added.
The announcement of the repatriation of the Rohinyas comes almost a year after the two countries signed an agreement on November 23, 2017 to begin the process.
The Rohingya exodus began on August 25, 2017, when a rebel group of the Muslim minority community launched a series of attacks on government posts in the Rakhine region of western Burma.
The Burmese Army responded with an offensive that has been condemned worldwide for its human rights abuses, such as rape, torture, looting and burning of entire villages of the Rohingya.
A UN report presented last September described the military operation in Rakáin against the Rohingya as "intentional genocide", in addition to finding evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity.