Red Cross says conditions not right for Rohingyas to return

Rohingya camp

But refugees scheduled to leave said they would refuse to go because of fears for their safety. The situation remained tense in camps overnight.

But by late Wednesday, confusion grew over whether it would start.

"None feels safe to go back now", Kalam told AFP.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who hopes to retain power in December elections, has repeatedly complained that hosting more than a million Rohingya is taxing local resources.

'Most of the people on the list have fled to avoid being repatriated, ' said Mohammad Rafique, a Rohingya refugee at the Jamtoli camp under Ukhiya police station of Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh.

"I will not go. My wife and other family members have gone elsewhere, they do not want to go", Amin told The Associated Press.

In the meeting on the sidelines of a series of leaders' meetings on East Asian cooperation in Singapore, Li said that China and Myanmar are friendly neighbors and that the solid "paukphaw" ("fraternal" in the Myanmar language) friendship has stayed strong since the two countries established diplomatic relations 68 years ago. "We gave them shelter, so why should we send them back forcibly?" he argued.

The Bangladesh government declined to comment. Hundreds staged a demonstration shouting "we will not go".

"If we need to go, we demand that we go back to our homes, not to any camps there".

"From the beginning we have been saying that it will be a voluntary return".

The UNHCR delayed the process of assessing voluntariness, said the official, adding that the government handed over a list of 2260 persons of 485 families to the UN agency on October 28, but they started works on November 13, though no counselling service was provided among the prospective returnees.

"The buses were ready and we readied three days of rations for those who were set to return, in the first batch but none boarded on the buses", an official of the relief commissioner's office at the scene said.

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Bangladesh officials declined to say whether another attempt at repatriation would be made Friday.

Despite the promises by Myanmar, human rights activists say conditions are not yet safe for their return.

"We are witnessing terror and panic among those Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar who are at imminent risk of being returned to Myanmar against their will", Bachelet said in a statement. The scale, organization and ferocity of the operation led to accusations from the worldwide community, including the United Nations, of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

In reply Suu Kyi, who appeared wrong-footed by the directness of the public critique, retreated behind her usual position: the Rohingya crisis is an internal Myanmar affair.

"Returns at this time can not be safe or dignified and would constitute a violation of Bangladesh's obligations under global law".

This comes as it was reported that a first wave of organized returns could begin on Thursday. The Myanmar government says that any violence a year ago was related to clearance operations against Rohingya insurgents, who launched coordinated attacks on police posts and an army base in August 2017. Myanmar's government has denied the accusations.

On the other side of the border Myanmar officials also waited all day, said Myint Thu, permanent secretary at the foreign ministry.

But there is widespread skepticism that any of returning refugees will ever be granted citizenship.

More than 700,000 people have been taking refuge in Bangladesh since August a year ago when a militant attack on security posts in Rakhine state prompted a disproportionate military "clearance operation". But, this news and resulting preparations of bringing in troops to back this plan has driven fear through the refugee camps housing the displaced Rohingya. Almost all Rohingya have been denied citizenship in Myanmar since a 1982 law went into effect.

Bangladesh may be eager to have the refugees return home, and Myanmar, after being denounced for the slaughter, rape and village fires that forced 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee across the border, could be looking to prove the country has turned a new leaf.

At the time of their arrest, the duo were working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim villagers during an army crackdown in Rakhine.

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