Rohingya repatriation: Dhaka signs MoU with UNHCR

Myanmar’s crackdown against its Rohingya minority has been dubbed ‘ethnic cleansing’ by the US and UN. – AFP

The foreign secretary of Bangladesh and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) [official website] signed [press release] a Memorandum of Understanding on Friday to cement their agreement that Rohingya refugees should be able to voluntarily return to Myanmar when the country's conditions improve.

Over 670,000 Rohingyas fled violence in Myanmar since last August, joining an estimated 200,000 Rohingya who have sought shelter in Bangladesh, arriving in waves over the past decades.

The U.N. refugee agency called a Myanmar minister's visit to Bangladesh to meet Muslim Rohingya refugees a confidence-building measure, but said conditions in Myanmar were not ready for their return.

For the hospitality, protection and assistance provided to those refugees, UNHCR would like to extend its honest thanks to the government and people of Bangladesh, according to a message received from Geneva.

Myanmar Social Welfare Minister Win Myat Aye, who heads rehabilitation efforts in Myanmar's troubled western Rakhine state, told about 50 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh on Wednesday that getting the repatriation process moving was top priority.

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 prosecutor's office had collected information from various United Nations agencies, media and non-profits like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among others, to document the alleged abuses suffered by the minority, whom Myanmar considers Bangladeshi migrants and denies citizenship rights.

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

Myanmar authorities say the operation in Rakhine state is aimed at rooting out extremists, but the Security Council is demanding that the Rohingya be allowed to safely return home.

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 concrete measures would help demonstrate to refugees that the Myanmar government is committed to a sustainable solution.

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