Sunday, February 17, 2019 | ePaper

Buddhists lodge mass protest against repatriation

Stop rush plan: UN raises concern over safety of Rohingyas

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Special Correspondent :
The United Nations (UN) has called upon Bangladesh to stop the 'rush plan' of Rohingya refugee repatriation raising concern over their safety and security in Myanmar amid mass protest by Myanmar Buddhists against the process.
The visiting UN Secretary-General's special envoy on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener said it at a meeting with Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali on Monday afternoon.
She also emphasized on voluntary return of the refugees to Myanmar in line with international standard in the meeting held at the State Guest House Padma in Dhaka.
The outcome of the meting could not be known immediately as the Foreign Ministry officials refrained from media briefing.
An anonymous Foreign Ministry source said that the UN special envoy in the meeting emphasized the voluntary return of the Rohingya refugees referring to the concern of the international over the safety and security of the potential returnees amid mass protest by Myanmar Buddhists against the repatriation.
Burgener arrived in Dhaka on 7 November to see   the Rohingya situation in Bangladesh. This was her third visit to Bangladesh since her appointment by the UN Secretary General on 26 April.
The UN envoy visited Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar and met the Rohingyas, who earlier said they would not return to Myanmar unless the authorities granted their citizenship, ensure security and basic rights.
."The return of refugees cannot begin unless the Rohingya themselves regain the trust and confidence to opt voluntarily for repatriation. We cannot forcibly send them back prior ensuring their safety, security and basic rights," an official of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) told The New Nation on Monday on condition of anonymity.
He said the UN Secretary-General's special envoy in today's meeting asked Bangladesh authorities not to pursue a hurried repatriation plan as conditions are not yet safe for their return in part because Myanmar Buddhists have been protesting against the repatriation.
When asked, he said, "It would be entirely up to the Myanmar authorities to build trust and confidence among the Rohingya about their sustainable return and peaceful coexistence with other communities in Rakhine State.
The UN's refugee agency said on Sunday that Rohingya refugees should be allowed to go and see the conditions in Myanmar before they decide to go back.
"The UN has set the priority to voluntary return of Roningya repatriation from Bangladesh to Myanmar. In this context, we have already formed 14 teams to consult with Rohingya refugees before choosing to their return to Myanmar. We will not force the potential returnees who will refuse to go back to their home in northern Rakhine state from where they fled amid brutal military crackdown last year," said the UNHCR official.
In June this year, the UNHCR, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Myanmar authorities finalized a memorandum of understanding establishing a framework on cooperation in creating conditions suitable for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh. 
"The repatriation will be voluntary. None of the Rohingya refugees will be forced to go back in Myanmar," Mohammad Abul Kalam, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner of Bangladesh, told The New Nation.
He was hopeful that the process could begin on Thursday in line with international standard.
Myanmar officials said on Sunday that the country was ready to receive 2,260 Rohingya Muslims sheltering in Bangladesh on November 15, the first group from 5,000 people to be moved under a deal between Dhaka and Naypyidaw.
Following a concerted campaign of extreme violence by the Myanmar authorities against Rohingya people in Myanmar's Rakhine state in August 2017, over 700,000 Rohingya fled over the border into the Cox's Bazar district in Bangladesh.

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