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Asean & Global Updates
POSTED | 16:32 PM | 25-11-2017

B’desh and Myanmar to let UN assist Rohingya’s return

Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed to take help from the UN refugee agency to safely repatriate hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who had fled violence in Myanmar, Bangladesh said on Saturday (Nov 25, 2017).

More than 600,000 Rohingya sought sanctuary in Bangladesh after the military in mostly Buddhist Myanmar launched a brutal counter-insurgency operation in their villages across the northern parts of Rakhine State following attacks by Rohingya militants on an army base and police posts on Aug 25.

Faced with a burgeoning humanitarian crisis, the two governments signed a pact on Thursday agreeing that the return of the Rohingya to Myanmar should start within two months.

Uncertainty over whether the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would have a role had prompted rights groups to insist that outside monitors were needed to safeguard the Rohingya’s return.

Addressing a news conference in Dhaka, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali gave assurances that the UNHCR would play some part.

“Both countries agreed to take help from the UNHCR in the Rohingya repatriation process,” Ali said. “Myanmar will take its assistance as per their requirement.”

The diplomatic breakthrough came just ahead of a visit by Pope Francis to Myanmar and Bangladesh from Nov 26 to Dec 2 that is aimed at promoting “reconciliation, forgiveness and peace.”

While the violence in Rakhine has mostly ceased, Rohingya have continued to stream out of Myanmar, saying they have largely lost access to sources of livelihood such as their farms, fisheries and markets.

Thousands of Rohingya, most of them old people, women and children, remain stranded on beaches near the border, waiting for a boat to take them to Bangladesh.

Ali said a joint working group, to be formed within three weeks, will fix the final terms to start the repatriation process.

After leaving the refugee camps in Bangladesh, Rohingya who opt to be voluntarily repatriated will be moved to camps in Myanmar, the minister said.

“Most houses were burnt down. Where they will live after going back? So, it is not possible to physically return to their homes,” Ali said.

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