UN, Bangladesh agree to safe, voluntary Rohingya repatriation

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Geneva, April 13 (IANS) The UN Refugee Agency said on Friday that it had reached an agreement with the Bangladeshi government for the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees who have fled organised attacks by the security forces in Myanmar.

Over 670,000 Rohingyas, a mainly Muslim minority living in Myanmar, fled the northwestern Rakhine state since the end of August after a wave of persecution and violence that the UN described as an attempt at “ethnic cleansing”.

The agreement focused on the “safe, voluntary, and dignified returns” of Rohingyas, which will only take place “once conditions in Myanmar were conducive”, according to a UNHCR statement cited by Efe news.

Before the exodus, Bangladesh was already hosting 200,000 Rohingya refugees who had arrived there during earlier episodes of sectarian violence.

The UNHCR thanked Bangladesh for its hospitality, protection and assistance to those refugees.

In November, Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed on the repatriation of Rohingya refugees with a view to starting the process two months later. The repatriation did not begin as planned due to the lack of safety guarantees for those willing to return.

One of the main points raised was the condition that Myanmar imposed on returning refugees to present official identity documents, which they have always been denied.

The Rohingya minority has been historically segregated in Buddhist majority Myanmar.

The UNHCR was engaging in talks and coordinating with Bangladesh and Myanmar separately. The agency, which is responsible for the operation of camps hosting hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas in Bangladesh, said the refugees must “see concrete progress in relation to their legal status and citizenship, security and their ability to enjoy basic rights at home in Rakhine state” before considering returning.

The UNHCR also demanded that the restrictions on the movement of internally displaced people living in camps in the central townships of Rakhine state be lifted.

Such measures “would help demonstrate to refugees that the Government of Myanmar is committed to a sustainable solution” to the problems faced by Rohingyas, the agency said.



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