Despite all the preparations for the second repatriation attempt, not a single Rohingya turned up on August 22 to be voluntarily returned to Rakhine. It is a repetition of what happened in the first attempt in 2017. This is hardly a surprise since the people who are the candidates for this “voluntary” repatriation do not feel confident about the conditions they will go back to. Their basic demands—of trying those who killed and tortured Rohingyas and drove them out of their land, ensuring citizenship and security of Rohingyas, giving back their land and properties, and protecting all fundamental rights of Rohingyas in Myanmar’s Rakhine state—have not been guaranteed by Myanmar.
First of all, comes the question: before setting another date for repatriation, were there any attempts to ask the Rohingya refugees whether they were willing to go back as is understood when we use the term “voluntary repatriation”? Apparently not, since when UNHR asked the refugees, they were very categorical about not wanting to go without having their demands met. Thus while Bangladesh has prepared lists after verification, unless the Rohingya refugees are willing to go back, such repatriation attempts will be futile.
Meanwhile, Myanmar has not held up its side of the bargain. Even after Bangladesh handed over a list of 55,000 Rohingyas, Myanmar only cleared 3,450 of them. It has also illogically cited Bangladesh as the main reason why repatriation has not been successful.
There is little reason to believe that Myanmar will meet the demands of the Rohingya which would result in voluntary repatriation. Yet, Bangladesh is hardly in a position to keep on bearing the burden of close to a million refugees. Thus unless the international community puts pressure on Myanmar and makes sure it complies with the basic demands of the Rohingya, there is little chance of any solution to the crisis which has been solely created by Myanmar.