COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — AP photographer Manish Swarup has been capturing imagery of the struggles of the more than 680,000 Rohingya Muslims now living in sprawling refugee camps in Bangladesh. The Rohingya, a long-persecuted minority denied citizenship at home in Myanmar, began pouring across the border in late August after waves of attacks by Myanmar security forces and Buddhist mobs.
An agreement signed by Bangladesh and Myanmar is supposed to send the refugees home. According to the deal, those who return will first live in transit camps that the Myanmar government says it has set up before eventually returning to their now-destroyed villages they fled in terror just a few months ago.
The gradual repatriations were supposed to begin Tuesday but Bangladesh officials announced a last-minute delay amid fears that the refugees may be forced to return. Bangladesh has not said how long the delay will last. Myanmar is anxious for repatriations to begin, hoping to soften the international condemnation it is facing for the crisis. On Tuesday, Myanmar again said it was ready to begin accepting returning refugees.
Most refugees, though, say they are terrified to return to the place where just a few months ago soldiers and Buddhist mobs shot and killed thousands before setting fires to homes and farmland. They fear more attacks if they return.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims, victims of earlier spasms of violence, already live in squalid displacement camps in Myanmar and have been unable to return to their villages for years.