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Aid groups ask Bangladesh not to send Rohingya back to Myanmar

By Nicholas Sakelaris
Aid groups ask Bangladesh not to send Rohingya back to Myanmar
Rohingya Muslims sit near a makeshift home in Rakhine State, Myanmar, in January. Many fled to Bangladesh or Saudi Arabia to escape ongoing violence. File Photo by Nyunt Win/EPA/EFE

Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Several aid groups are pleading with Bangladesh against forcing thousands of Rohingya to return to Myanmar, saying they have no assurances violence there will stop.

More than 700,000 Muslim Rohingya fled religious persecution by the Myanmar military in 2017. Oxfam, World Vision and Save the Children joined 39 other groups and civil society organizations to oppose the decision.

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The first large-scale repatriation is set for this month, which is sparking fear among some refugees. Many have lived in camps for six years.

"They are terrified about what will happen to them if they are returned to Myanmar now, and distressed by the lack of information they have received," the group said in a joint statement. "They fled to Bangladesh to seek safety and they are very grateful to the government of Bangladesh for giving them a safe haven."

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The United Nations has called for Myanmar's military leaders to be investigated for genocide. Government officials, though, say they're merely defending themselves against Rohingya rebels.

Some refugees say they would like to return to Myanmar, but only with full citizenship and a peaceful life. Much of Myanmar's Rohingya population fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape the violence.

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"I have a brother back in Myanmar ...They are still afraid to sleep at night," one woman said. "They are still afraid to be killed in their beds. After coming here, through the blessing of Allah and the Bangladesh government, we can sleep at night."

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Some took refuge in Saudi Arabia, many entering illegally with fake passports. Saudi officials sent a letter to Bangladesh leaders asking its government to take back Bangladeshi passport holders.

Many, though, don't want to go to Bangladesh either -- where they say refugees live in overcrowded camps.

That deportation process started in October.

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