UN agencies, Myanmar ink accord to prepare for Rohingya refugee returns

Source: Xinhua| 2018-06-07 05:47:05|Editor: yan
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UNITED NATIONS, June 6 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday welcomed an agreement between Myanmar and UN agencies on the return of 670,000 Rohingya refugees, but he said conditions were not yet ripe for their returns.

Rohingya people fled alleged murderous retaliation between government and civilian militia following deadly attacks Aug. 25 last year by rebels against security posts. They have been in make-shift refugee camps in hilly southernmost Bangladesh and now endure flooding from monsoon rains.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Myanmar and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) "to create conditions conducive to voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable Rohingya refugee returns from Bangladesh," chief UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

"As these conditions are not yet in place, he (Guterres) welcomes the agreement by the Government of Myanmar to take this first step to address the root causes of the conflict in Rakhine," the spokesman told reporters at a briefing in UN headquarters.

Most of the Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim minority in overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar, lack citizenship or even proof of residence after fleeing burning villages.

Guterres called "for an end to violence, accountability for perpetrators, redress for victims, humanitarian access to all areas in Rakhine State, and the implementation of the recommendations of the Rakhine advisory commission," Dujarric said, referring to the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State headed up by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The panel had several recommendations including citizenship verification, rights and equality before the law, documentation, the situation of the internally displaced and freedom of movement.

Under the MoU, the UNHCR will join hands with the Myanmar government in implementing voluntary repatriation and conducting assessments at their potential pilot project sites, and will work with UNDP in preparation for recovery and resilience-based development in potential area, a statement of the Myanmar Ministry of State Counsellor's Office said.

Also, it said the UNDP will cooperate with the government in undertaking the planning process for resilience-based recovery and development that will benefit all communities and promote social cohesion among the communities as well as support access to livelihoods.

"Many Rohingya living in the camps in Bangladesh have said they will only return if their safety can be guaranteed, and if they can be provided with citizenship," Frontier Myanmar reported.

"Myanmar has come under considerable international criticism for its handling of the crisis, but has consistently maintained that it is ready to accept returnees, despite many in the international community warning that the situation is not favorable for returns," the publication said online.

Myanmar has recently received a first batch of 62 returnees through the Nga Khu Ya reception camp in Rakhine state, who had fled the Rakhine state conflict, and they were being transferred to the Hla Pho Khaung transit camp in Maungtaw after proper verification.