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Stranded refugees refuse to return to Myanmar without guarantees


(FILES) In this photograph taken on September 16, 2017, Rohingya Muslim refugees in Jalpatoli refugee camp, in the no-man's land area between Myanmar and Bangladesh, watch as Myanmar soldiers patrol on the other side of the border, near Gumdhum village in Ukhia. Photo: Dominique Faget/AFP

Rohingya refugees living in no man's land refused Tuesday to return to Myanmar without guarantees of citizenship and security after Bangladesh and Myanmar officials met to discuss their repatriation.

The 6,000 Rohingya were among the first to flee Myanmar in the wake of a military crackdown on the Muslim minority in late August. They have been living ever since in a makeshift camp in a strip of unclaimed land between the two countries.

In recent weeks they have come under pressure to return, with a Myanmar minister warning of "consequences" if they remain in no man's land.

But community leader Dil Mohammad told AFP they would not return without guarantees of security, citizenship and compensation for property lost in the clampdown.

"We are not going to return to our homes and villages in Myanmar unless our demands are met. We want citizenship, all rights, security to our lives and property and compensation," he said.

On Tuesday officials from both countries held talks to decide the fate of the 6,000 before speaking to them directly in no man's land.

"Every person we spoke to said that they would go back to their homes if they got security," said the head of the Bangladesh delegation, Abdul Mannan.

A spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency told AFP any returns must be voluntary.

"Some members of this group in no man's land have said they fear returning home and wish to seek safety in Bangladesh," Caroline Gluck said.

"We appeal to the Bangladeshi authorities to allow them to do so. At the same time, Myanmar should ensure conducive conditions for the safe and sustainable return of those who wish to do so voluntarily."

© AFP

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