UNHCR seeks to be part of Rohingya repatriation talks

The UN refugee agency has said it wants to be part of talks between Bangladesh and Myanmar on the return of Rohingya refugees to ensure “international standards” in repatriation.

Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 16 Jan 2018, 11:47 AM
Updated : 16 Jan 2018, 11:47 AM

UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic at a media briefing in Geneva on Tuesday made the comment against the backdrop of the signing of a deal between the two neighbours to start the repatriation process.

Both countries agreed to complete the repatriation in two years from the start of the process.

UNHCR underscores the importance of the dialogue between the two countries “at the core of which is the right of refugees to voluntarily return home”.

“To ensure that the refugees are heard and their protection guaranteed in Bangladesh and on return in Myanmar, we are willing to be part of these discussions,” Mahecic said.

In any refugee situation, UNHCR hopes that refugees will be able to return home when they themselves choose to.

Before considering a return to Myanmar, some Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have informed the UNHCR staff that they would need to see positive developments in their legal status and citizenship, the security situation in Rakhine State and their ability to enjoy basic rights back home.

“Major challenges have to be overcome,” Mahecic said.

“These include ensuring that refugees are informed about the situation in their areas of origin and potential return and consulted on their wishes; that their safety is ensured throughout -- on departure, in transit and on return; and that the environment in the areas of return is conducive for safe and sustainable return.”

“In this context, we have observed that the government of Myanmar has endorsed the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission lead by Kofi Annan and reiterated its commitment in the bilateral Arrangement with the government of Bangladesh.”

“A comprehensive implementation of the Rakhine Advisory Commission recommendations is essential to ensure sustainable return,” Mahecic said.

“These stress the importance of ensuring peace and security for all communities in Rakhine State, reducing communal divisions, and achieving solutions for the legal and citizenship status of Muslim communities. We look to Myanmar to urgently implement these recommendations.”

The UNHCR and its partners also want “urgent, unhindered” access to Rakhine in order to assess the situation and provide support to those in need who are still in Rakhine and to help with rebuilding efforts.

Bangladesh and Myanmar on Tuesday signed the text of the Physical Arrangement which will facilitate the return of Rohingyas from Bangladesh, guided by the earlier understanding and principles.

This followed the unprecedented exodus of Rohingyas from Rakhine State since August 25 last year. More than one million people of those ethnic Muslims have taken shelter in Bangladesh.

The meeting also finalised the “form” for verification. Modalities for repatriation of orphans and children born out of unwarranted incidents have been incorporated in the deal.

Under the Physical Arrangement, Bangladesh would establish five transit camps from which returnees would be received initially in two reception centres on the Myanmar side, the foreign ministry said.