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Living On The Edge: Rohingya Avoid Return to Myanmar

Living on the edge: Rohingya avoid return to Myanmar

Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh - Arif Ahmed felt somewhat relieved as he sat by a muddy body of water in no-man's land along Bangladesh's border with Myanmar.

The fate of the Rohingya refugee hung in the balance this week when a plan to repatriate members of the persecuted, mostly Muslim minority from Bangladesh to Myanmar's Rakhine state looked like it may begin on Tuesday.

That plan has now been put on hold, but Ahmed and others living in this informal camp near the village of Gundum, less than a kilometre from his home in Myanmar, cannot stop thinking about their possible return.

"Bangladesh is not my motherland, Myanmar is my motherland," Ahmed said. "If the situation calms down I want to return home, and with that hope, I'm staying here."

Phone service in the camp is spotty, but refugees here regularly climb a nearby hill to get better connectivity. There, they stay on top of developments related to repatriation through Bangladesh and Myanmar government updates on social media.

"Every day after the evening prayer we go to the top of the hill and find out [what's happening] through Facebook," he said.

The refugees in this camp are just a fraction of the 650,000 plus Rohingya who have fled Myanmar over the past five months following a brutal military crackdown against their community.

But many here know they could be among the first to be repatriated because they live in ambiguous territory - no man's land.

It's a name that drips with irony. Despite having lived in Myanmar for generations, many Rohingya are denied legal recognition there and are commonly viewed as illegal migrants from Bangladesh.