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Rohingya repatriation to Myanmar ends in failure because ‘no one wants to leave Bangladesh’

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The first official day of repatriating thousands of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar has ended in failure after no-one agreed to return.

Bangladesh was due to send back the first 130 of 2,260 Rohingya scheduled to return in November.

Officials compiled a list of names of people that had been picked to return but conceded that so far everyone has refused.

“We won’t force them back,” Bangladesh’s Rohingya Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, Mohammad Abul Kalam told Sky News.

Officials said they would continue to try to encourage refugees to return voluntarily.

More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled the brutal crackdown in Myanmar last year.

They say soldiers and local Buddhists massacred families, burned hundreds of villages, and carried out gang rapes.

UN-mandated investigators have accused the army of “genocidal intent” and ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar denies almost all of the allegations, saying security forces were battling terrorists.

Attacks by Rohingya insurgents calling themselves the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army preceded the crackdown.

As buses gathered on Thursday to carry returnees to transit camps, around 1,000 Rohingya demonstrated against the repatriations.

“We’re not going back”, the crowd chanted.

“We want justice for our families who were tortured,” a refugee shouted into a megaphone.

Citizenship, guaranteed rights and promises they’d be safe were some of the group’s demands.

Shabir Ahmed was among the protesters and told Sky News: “We don’t trust Myanmar’s government because they are liars.

“They keep changing what they’re saying. If repatriation happens, maybe two years later they will drive us out again with beatings and torture.”

A UN-brokered deal between Myanmar and Bangladesh says refugees can only be repatriated voluntarily.

UN officials and human rights groups cautioned against beginning the process before the refugees’ safety had been assured.

(c) Sky News 2018: Rohingya repatriation to Myanmar ends in failure because ‘no one wants to leave Bangladesh’