Two UN bodies on Wednesday asked the Myanmar government to demonstrate its willingness for taking back Rohingya people with making tangible progress by granting effective access in Rakhine State, ensuring freedom of movement for all communities and addressing root causes of the crisis.
United Nations Development Programme and UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, made the call a day before the arrival of a high-level Bangladesh delegation in Myanmar for visiting Rakhine State to see preparations on the ground for taking back over 7,00,000 forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals from Bangladesh.
Foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali and members of the joint working group led by foreign secretary M Shahidul Haque are set to reach Naypyitaw today for the crucial visit.
The Myanmar government’s willingness to take the lead in the implementation of the agreement ‘is critical’ for creating conditions conducive for the voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees, the two UN bodies said in a joint press release from Myanmar on Wednesday.
Substantial progress ‘is urgently needed in three key areas’ covered by the memorandum of understanding signed in June, they said, in granting effective access to Rakhine State, ensuring freedom of movement for all communities and addressing the root causes of the crisis.
‘Effective access requires’, the UN bodies said, being able to consult, freely and independently and on a day-to-day basis, with communities in Rakhine State about their needs.
The Myanmar authorities also required to make a procedure predictable, flexible and simplified to approve travel authorisations within a reasonable period of time for UNHCR and UNDP staff to go to the areas where these communities reside. ‘These are basic criteria for enabling us to carry out our work in the areas of Rakhine State covered by the MoU’ between Myanmar and UNDP and UNHCR.
UNHCR and UNDP submitted travel authorisation requests on June 14 for international staff to be based in Maungdaw and to start their works in the northern part of Rakhine State with no response from the Myanmar authorities.
Freedom of movement and increased public services delivery ‘are crucial for all communities’ in Rakhine State, irrespective of religion, ethnicity or citizenship status, the two global bodies said, adding that the remaining Rohingya communities ‘are affected most of all’ as local orders severely restricted their freedom of movement. They have been prevented from interacting with friends, family, and other communities in Rakhine State.
For addressing the root causes of the Rohingya crisis, the two organisations said the implementing the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, including a clear, voluntary and equal pathway to citizenship for all eligible individuals ‘is crucial’.
The Bangladesh delegation is likely to hold meetings with senior Myanmar government officials on Friday in Naypyitaw on preparations for repatriation. They will visit northern Rakhine on Saturday.
About 7,00,000 Rohingya, mostly women, children and aged people, entered Bangladesh fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape during ‘security operations’ by Myanmar military in Rakhine, what the UN denounced as ethnic cleansing and genocide, beginning from August 25, 2017.
The ongoing Rohingya influx took the number of undocumented Myanmar nationals and registered refugees in Bangladesh to about 11,16,000, according to estimates by UN agencies and Bangladesh foreign ministry.
Bangladesh and Myanmar are engaged in a slow process of preparations with the UN agencies for starting repatriation of Rohingya people.
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