Controversial Plan To Send Rohingya Refugees In Bangladesh Back To Myanmar Has Been Delayed : Goats and Soda Bangladesh, which has taken in more than 650,000 Rohingya refugees, had announced it would start sending them back to Myanmar this week. But now the plan is on hold. That's fine with the refugees.
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The Refugees Who Don't Want To Go Home ... Yet

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The Refugees Who Don't Want To Go Home ... Yet

The Refugees Who Don't Want To Go Home ... Yet

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. It seemed like an encouraging moment in one of the world's worst refugee crises. As we've been reporting for months, the Rohingya, a Muslim minority, were driven out of their home country Myanmar. The U.N. and the U.S. government called this ethnic cleansing. The Rohingya have been packed into crowded refugee camps across the border in Bangladesh. Now, tomorrow, Bangladesh was planning to begin sending Rohingya back home as part of a deal to resolve the crisis. But this has now been postponed. And human rights groups and many refugees themselves are questioning whether it's safe for them to return anyway. NPR's Jason Beaubien is in one of the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. And he's on the line. Hi, Jason.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Hey. How you doing?

GREENE: I'm OK. I can hear some of the sound around you. Describe just exactly where you are.

BEAUBIEN: So yeah. I'm in what now has become the largest refugee camp in the world. It's just across the border from Myanmar. I can actually see Myanmar from where I am here in this camp. And it just extends from miles and miles - these bamboo huts that people have erected with little plastic coverings over the top of them. And this is where the Rohingya are now - sort of hold up after being driven out of Myanmar primarily since August. Most of them came since August. Some of them came from before that.

GREENE: And so there was this deal that had looked like was going to send some of them finally back home. What happened here?

BEAUBIEN: Well, many people thought that this deal was overly optimistic to begin with. And they're saying now that there are problems with the logistics of this and just simply they weren't ready to go. There were also some other problems. Like the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees wasn't involved in what was going to be the process of moving people back. UNHCR's normally the agency that sort of helps accompany people going back and deal with those types of transitions. This was something that was banged out between the Bangladesh government and the Myanmar government. And right now, they're just saying that they don't have the logistics in place. But in addition to that, many people - as a matter of fact, every refugee that I have asked has said that they won't go back under the conditions - the way this deal was was set up.

GREENE: I mean, I know so many were mistreated by the military. Is that the reason? I mean, they just feel like as hard as life might be in these camps, it might be worse if they return home.

BEAUBIEN: Absolutely. I mean, they worry that they will be killed. Basically, just a few months ago, they fled from what they say is the Myanmar military and pro-government supporters. And they say that there's nothing that's really changed that means that they would have safety if they go back. So that is the main thing. They just are fearing for their own safety if they returned at this point in time. They also have been basically stateless inside Myanmar. They're not considered citizens. They're viewed as essentially illegal immigrants despite the fact that they've been there for generations. And they say that that also really needs to change. They need to be treated as citizens and with dignity.

GREENE: As you look across this camp, Jason, I mean, what are the conditions? And how long would the Rohingya be able to live in camps like this if they can't go home?

BEAUBIEN: The conditions have improved dramatically from when people first arrived. You know, the World Food Program is now distributing food. They've set up, you know, toilets and outhouses. So things have improved a lot. But they're still incredibly simple shelters. They are stuck on hillsides that are just sand essentially. And there's great concern that when the monsoons come, this whole place is just going to turn into a mud pit. You know, we're talking about hundreds of thousands of people crowded in here. So the conditions are not great, but people say at least here they feel safe.

GREENE: NPR's Jason Beaubien is in a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh just across the border from Myanmar. Jason, thanks.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF OWSEY'S "I FELT HELPLESS LOOKING AT YOU THEN")

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