Sat, Jun 02, 2018 - Page 6 News List

UN, Myanmar agree on steps toward return of Rohingya

AP, YANGON, Myanmar

Myanmar and the UN agreed to take steps to create conditions for the safe return of about 700,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled military-led violence into Bangladesh.

The agreement announced by the government and two UN agencies on Thursday calls for a framework of cooperation that would lead to the “voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable” repatriation of Rohingya refugees “to their places of origin or of their choosing.”

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that the conditions for voluntary return are not conducive yet.

The memorandum of understanding — which is expected to be signed next week — “is the first and necessary step to support the government’s efforts to change that situation and is also intended to support recovery and resilience-based development for the benefit of all communities living in Rakhine State,” the agency said in a statement.

Myanmar and Bangladesh in November last year agreed to begin repatriating the Rohingya, but the refugees expressed concern that they would be forced to return and would face unsafe conditions in Myanmar if the process is not monitored by international aid groups.

The government said in a statement that it initialed the agreement with the UN Development Program and UNHCR for their assistance so that verified displaced people “can return voluntarily in safety and dignity.”

The UN said the agreement also provides for the two agencies to be given access to western Rakhine, where most of the violence against the Rohingya has occurred since August last year.

It said that would allow the agency to assess the situation, carry out protection activities and provide information to refugees about conditions in their home areas so that they can better decide whether they want to return.

Myanmar has so far said it would only allow refugees with identity documents — which most Rohingya lack — to return.

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