No significant interaction with Myanmar: UN   

Diplomatic Correspondent | Published: 23:42, May 18,2021


There were no significant interactions between the UN agencies and the Myanmar government since the military coup in February hindered the process of repatriation of forcibly displaced Rohingya people to their home in Rakhine, top UN officials said on Tuesday.

‘No significant interaction with the UN since February 1,’ UN high commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi said in a press conference held virtually with the commissioner joining in from Geneva.

There was minimum interaction with the local authorities to continue humanitarian support in Rakhine, he said. 

The press conference was organised as a part of the announcement of the Geneva donor conference to seek $943 million for funding the Joint Response Plan this year, JRP 2021, to run scores of projects for about  1.4 million people, including 8,84,041 Rohingyas from Myanmar and 4,72,000 Bangladeshis of the surrounding host communities in Cox’s Bazar.

Two UN bodies, UNHCR and IOM, and Bangladesh co-hosted the conference when the funding countries announced instant commitments for providing $360 million which was 36 per cent of the projected funds sought under JRP 2021.

Replying to a question on what plan the UN bodies have drawn up to support 6,00,000 Rohingya people in different places inside Myanmar that might encourage Rohingyas in Bangladesh to go back to their ancestral home, Filippo Grandi said that they were emphasising the resumption of the process of Rohingya return to their villages, leaving the camps meant for the internally displaced persons or IDPs in northern and central Rakhine.

‘The IDPs must be closed to allow them to go back home,’ he said, adding that the solutions need to be pursued in Myanmar.

More actions are required in Rakhine on matters including freedom of movement and livelihood, etcetera, the UNHCR chief added.

Replying to the same question, International Organisation for Migration director general António Vitorino said that the IOM started working in IDP camps couple of months before the military coup in February, but the process was annulled for the lack of support from the Myanmar government.

‘Recent events (military coup on February 1) shed some shadows on Rohingya repatriation although durable solutions on the issue is in repatriation to Rakhine State,’ he said. 

Bangladesh foreign minister M Shahriar Alam emphasised concentrating on a permanent solution to the Rohingya crisis with the repatriation of the members of the group for avoiding holding a donor response conference each year.

Mentioning the repatriation of Rohingyas as a compelling priority for Bangladesh, he said priorities in the JRP 2021 must be aligned with the core objective of Bangladesh to send them back home in spite of the lack of political will of the Myanmar side, he said.

Not a single Rohingya returned to Rakhine since the last major exodus in August 2017. 

The Bangladesh government was looking forward to the UN agencies commencing operation at Bhasan Char at the earliest, he added.

The JRP 2021 shows a rise of some 29,000 Rohingyas in Bangladesh camps in a year as the UN bodies sought support for 8,55,000 Rohingyas in 2020, while the total rise of the displaced population has been 1,30,000 since 2017 when an estimated 7,40,000 Rohingyas fled atrocities committed by the Myanmar military and their cohorts in Rakhine state beginning from August 25, 2017, according to UNHCR statistics.

Representatives of US, the UK, Japan, Australia, Bangladesh, the European Commission, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Qatar and Norway and others joined the conference.

The latest Rohingya influx has taken the number of undocumented Myanmar nationals and registered Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to over a million, according to government estimates.

Want stories like this in your inbox?

Sign up to exclusive daily email