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Myanmar team visits Cox’s Bazar for Rohingya repatriation project

Myanmar delegation is visiting camps this week to verify a few hundred potential returnees for the project.

A delegation from Myanmar is visiting Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh this week to verify a few hundred potential returnees for a pilot repatriation project.

A Bangladeshi official said on Wednesday it was unclear when the mostly Muslim refugees would go home.

Nearly a million Rohingya live in camps in Bangladesh in the border area of ​​Cox’s Bazar, most of them fleeing a military-led crackdown in Myanmar in 2017.

Bangladesh’s Commissioner for Refugee Assistance and Repatriation at Cox’s Bazar, Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, told Reuters that there was a list of 1,140 Rohingya who will be repatriated under the pilot project, 711 of whom have had their cases cleared.

Cases for the remaining 429 on the list, including some newborns, were still pending.

“We’re ready” to send them back, Rahman said, adding he didn’t know when that might start.

So far Myanmar’s military government, which came to power in a coup two years ago, has shown little inclination to take back Rohingya refugees.

China’s ambassador to Bangladesh, Yao Wen, hoped the first batch of displaced Rohingya would be repatriated quickly while Beijing continued its role as a mediator, Bangladesh’s official Sangbad Sangstha news agency reported.

Packed into tens of thousands of huts made of bamboo and thin plastic sheets, the living conditions of the refugees in the camps are dangerous.

Two years ago, a massive fire in the camp killed at least 15 people and destroyed more than 10,000 homes. Another fire earlier this month left 12,000 people without shelter.

Aside from long-standing problems such as the lack of employment and educational opportunities, the camps also suffer from rising crime rates.

Desperate for a better place, many Rohingya have risked their lives on the perilous sea journey from Bangladesh to countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

At least 348 Rohingya died at sea last year, according to United Nations estimates.