Myanmar urged to aid Rohingya returns

There must be safety and rights guarantees, says refugee host Bangladesh
Myanmar urged to aid Rohingya returns

Rohingya refugees who landed on an isolated northern shore near the Malaysia-Thai border on March 1. (Photo by Ismael  Kamaldin/AFP)

Myanmar has been called on to remove barriers to Muslim Rohingya refugees returning safely from sprawling camps in neighboring Bangladesh.

Bangladesh, during a fourth joint working group meeting on May 3, sought concerted action to create a conducive environment for voluntary repatriations to Myanmar's troubled Rakhine State.

The meeting held in Myanmar's capital, Naypyitaw, discussed Rohingya demands for freedom of movement in Myanmar if they go back as well as a clear pathway to citizenship.

Myanmar has been invited to send a delegation to Bangladesh camps housing an estimated 1.2 million Rohingya refugees.

Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials stated that such a visit would provide for "deeper engagement" by Myanmar with the Rohingya who have fled violence and alleged repression.

Myanmar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed a willingness to take back "verified displaced persons" under the terms of bilateral agreements.

Even though Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed in principle at the most recent joint working group meeting to speed up voluntary repatriations, no timetable was set.

Aye Lwin, a Myanmar Muslim leader and a former member of the Kofi Annan-led Rakhine Advisory Commission, said returnees needed to be able to go back to their original Rakhine homes.

And Lwin told that Myanmar should also improve conditions for Rohingyas confined to internally displaced persons' camps inside Rakhine State.

Sultan, a Rohingya resident in Maungdaw of northern Rakhine State, said if citizenship and other key demands were met, camp inmates in Bangladesh "will come back happily".

Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, has called for returnees to be provided with access to employment and services in Myanmar.

Bangladesh and Myanmar had agreed that a group of more than 2,000 Rohingyas would go back to Rakhine State last November. However, that was postponed when many of the refugees refused to return out of fears for their safety.

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