Rohingya refugees say they will not return to Myanmar until proper safeguards are instituted for their protection by aid agencies, a concern which the United Nations says has yet to be addressed.
"Girls were unable to sleep there at night, girls would stay awake in the fear of the military," refugee Assia Khatun, 40, told CNN. "They used to harm us, harass us, hurt us ... there were tears and sorrow everywhere."
“We will not go,” the Myanmar escapee said.
Following the announcement earlier this week that the Bangladesh-Myanmar repatriation deal had been signed, an army of refugees in the Cox Bazar district surged up in protest. Rohingya representative Mohibullah was one of those to be arrested by security forces, Local Police Chief Abul Khair reported.
"We call again on Myanmar to allow the necessary unhindered humanitarian access in Rakhine State and create conditions for a genuine and lasting solution,” Adrian Edwards, UNHCR spokesperson, told the press.
“In order for the repatriation to be (done) right, to be sustainable, actually viable ... you need to really address a number of issues that for the time being we have heard nothing about,” UNHCR head Filippo Grandi said in Geneva calling for the massive project to be delayed until the issues had been resolved.
One of these, he added, is citizenship papers for refugees who were forced from their homes and lack proper documentation to prove their residency.
Many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar regard the Rohingya community as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The United Nations described Myanmar’s crackdown as ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, which Myanmar denies.
Human Rights Watch, a non-government organization, said on Tuesday that Bangladesh should suspend the plan entirely as it “threatens the refugees’ security and wellbeing.” The agreement which was meant to begin a voluntary repatriation project Monday, has been postponed due to various delays by both parties.
More than 688,000 Muslim Rohingya and a few hundred Hindu Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since Aug. 25 last year after the Myanmar military cracked down in the northern part of Rakhine state, amid witness reports of killings, looting and rape, in response to militant attacks on security forces.
Thousands of refugees have escaped the violence of their home country only to fall into the hands of predators and human trafficking markets in neighboring countries, particularly India. According to the International Organization for Migration, women and children are the most at risk.
“There was no food at home and my mother thought I would be better off if I joined my father,” said Raheema, 22, who escaped Burma in 2012. “But my aunt at the camp sold me to the agent who told her he would get me married in India.”
The U.N. Human Rights department in India reports that over 17,000 Rohingya refugees have registered as asylum seekers.