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Statement by UN High Commissioner for Refugees on the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar

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A Rohingya refugee family from Myanmar at a shelter in Nayapara camp, south-east Bangladesh. © UNHCR/Chris Melzer

UNHCR supports the voluntary and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya refugees in safety and in dignity to their places of origin or choice, and will work with all parties towards this goal. The repatriation of refugees is premised upon the free and informed decision by refugees, on an individual basis, to return. Refugee returns should only take place at their freely expressed wish based on relevant and reliable knowledge of the conditions within the country of origin and the area of return.

The best way to provide that knowledge to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is to allow them to go and see the conditions in Myanmar for themselves. Before making a choice of whether to return or not, the refugees reportedly verified by Myanmar as having the right to return should be allowed to visit their places of origin in Rakhine State, or other places to which they might choose to return, so that they themselves can make an independent assessment of whether they feel they can return there in safety and dignity. Myanmar authorities should allow these refugees to undertake such go-and-see visits without prejudice to their right to return at a later date, if indeed the refugees decide after the visits that the current conditions in Rakhine State would not allow them to return in safety and dignity.

The responsibility to improve those conditions rests with Myanmar. Although UNHCR does not believe current conditions in Rakhine State are conducive to the voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return of refugees from Bangladesh, we remain committed to supporting the Government of Myanmar’s efforts to create such conditions, under the terms of the tripartite Memorandum of Understandig (MoU) signed by UNHCR, UNDP and Myanmar authorities in June. And we remain deeply grateful to the Government of Bangladesh as it continues to generously host Rohingya refugees until they can voluntarily return to Myanmar in safety and dignity.