Around 400 Rohingya refugees have voluntarily returned to Myanmar from Bangladesh, Myanmar’s embassy there said Thursday, but with previous repatriation attempts having failed Dhaka was yet verify the claim.
Bangladesh is home to nearly a million Rohingya including 740,000 who fled a military crackdown in Rakhine state in August 2017 that the UN has called ethnic cleansing.
Myanmar’s embassy posted photos on Facebook that purported to show “46 more voluntary returnees” being “warmly received” in Myanmar, taking the total number going back to 397 in an unspecified timeframe.
There was no immediate comment on the embassy statement from the Bangladeshi refugee commissioner and Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen said Dhaka would verify the claims.
But in a statement on Wednesday, Bangladesh’s foreign ministry said the return of a “handful” of refugees did “not testify (to) any improvement of the ground reality in Rakhine”.
Rohingya leaders have refused to return without guaranteed security and citizenship — which they are currently denied in Myanmar — and previous attempts to repatriate the Muslim minority fell flat when no-one turned up.
Since then however, Bangladesh has imposed an internet blackout on the vast, squalid camps in the country’s south-east that house the refugees, and has announced plans to surround them with barbed-wire fences.
Authorities also want to move thousands of the refugees to an island in the Bay of Bengal beginning next month despite concerns for their safety from rights groups.