Myanmar urged to implement Rohingya repatriation plan

Geneva (Switzerland) : The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) on Wednesday urged Myanmar to take back the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

On June 6, the UNHCR and UNDP signed a memorandum of understanding to create favourable conditions for Rohingya refugees to return to their places of origin or of their choice.

"Two months since the signing of the tripartite MoU between UNHCR, UNDP and the government of Myanmar, both UN bodies are urging Myanmar authorities to make tangible progress to improve conditions in Rakhine State," the agencies said in a joint statement.

"The Myanmar government's willingness to take the lead in the implementation of this agreement is critical to creating conditions conducive for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees," said the statement cited by Efe news.

The UN agencies earlier said that the MoU was the first step in helping the government create safe conditions by supporting development projects in Rakhine, home of majority of the 800,000 people who fled their homes to escape sectarian violence in Myanmar.

"The government has taken some encouraging steps since the MoU was signed (...) However, substantial progress is urgently needed in three key areas (...) granting effective access in Rakhine State, ensuring freedom of movement for all communities; and addressing the root causes of the crisis," the statement said.

The agencies said their officials should be granted unrestricted access to all parts of the state and be able to interview local communities.

They also requested for basic services to be provided to all state communities, regardless of religion, ethnicity or nationality.

The UN reported that members of the Rohingya community still do not have freedom of movement, cannot work, neither go to school nor have access to health services, largely due to Myanmar authorities' refusal to grant them citizenship rights.

The Rohingya exodus began on August 25, 2017, following an attack by a Rohingya rebel group to which the Myanmar Army retaliated with a violent military campaign in Rakhine against this mostly Muslim ethnic minority.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had described the crackdown as "ethnic cleansing" with elements of genocide.