UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, on Tuesday stressed the importance of Rohingyas’ returns meeting the international standards saying that they are willing to be part of these talks on repatriation.
“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,” said UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic at a press briefing in Geneva.
Bangladesh and Myanmar on Tuesday signed a document on ‘Physical Arrangement’ which will facilitate return of Rohingays to their homeland from Bangladesh.
The ‘Physical Arrangement’ stipulates that the repatriation will be completed preferably within two years from the commencement of repatriation.
Mahecic said UNHCR understands that discussions between Bangladesh and Myanmar focused on the modalities for the return of Rohingyas to Myanmar. “In any such situation, UNHCR hopes that refugees will be able to return home when they themselves choose to,” said the Spokesperson.
Before considering return to Myanmar, Mahecic said, some Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have informed UNHCR staff that they will need to see positive developments in relation to their legal status and citizenship, the security situation in Rakhine State, and their ability to enjoy basic rights back home.
The UNHCR official said major challenges have to be overcome and these include ensuring that refugees are informed about the situation in their areas of origin and potential return and consulted on their wishes.
Their safety needs to be ensured throughout – on departure, in transit and on return; and that the environment in the areas of return is conducive to safe and sustainable return, Mahecic added.
UNHCR underscored the importance of the dialogue between the two States at the core of which is the right of refugees to voluntarily return home.
Mahecic said they have observed that the government of Myanmar has endorsed the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission (RAC) 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,” Mahecic said.
In Myanmar, the Spokesperson said, UNHCR and their partners need urgent, unhindered access in Rakhine State, in order to assess the situation and provide support to those in need who are still in Rakhine and to help with rebuilding efforts.
“While a few agencies have regained limited access in the northern part of Rakhine State, UNHCR staff are not currently authorised to travel outside Maungdaw town,” Mahecic said.
Over the weekend, UNHCR and their partners started relocating more than 9,400 refugees who had been living in isolated border locations in Bangladesh, to Kutupalong refugee camp.
These Rohingyas had initially chosen to stay near the border to remain close to their homes.
In the last two days, more than four 400 of these Rohingyas have been taken by buses to Kutupalong camp where they underwent medical checks, and received hot meals, emergency relief items as well as shelter kits.