A Rohingya refugee attempted suicide this week after being told he was on a repatriation list to Burma, highlighting deep-seated fears among the Muslim minority about being forced out of their current refuge in Bangladesh.
Dil Mohammad, 60, was one of some 750,000 Rohingya who fled a campaign of violence and terror waged by the Burmese military in the country’s western Rakhine state last year.
Since then he and his family have sheltered in the squalid, dusty refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar, where refugees long to return to their homes when their rights and safety can be guaranteed.
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Mr Mohammad’s drastic actions were prompted by false rumours that he was going to be repatriated against his will. Doctors managed to save his life after he was rushed to a nearby hospital.
“My husband said Burma, where we may face rape, murder and other violence again, is unsafe for all Rohingyas and so we should not return,” Somira Begum, his wife, told the Telegraph.
“Since his name was on the list, he feared he would be picked up by police and forcibly sent across the border. He looked very tense and scared,” she said. “We are thankful to Allah that his life has been saved.”
Bangladesh and Burma, a country also known as Myanmar, announced last week that the first repatriations of about 2,000 refugees would begin in “mid-November.”
United Nations officials have objected to the plan, underlining that the conditions in Rakhine state are “not yet conducive for returns”.
“I think we can’t stress enough that returns cannot be rushed or premature, and the decision on whether or not for a refugee to return should be determined by the refugees themselves when they feel the time and the circumstances are right,” said Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres.
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