Statement of UNHCR on the need to create conditions in Myanmar that are conducive to refugee returns
UNHCR expresses its deep appreciation to and solidarity with Bangladesh for its generosity in continuing to host and support nearly one million Rohingya refugees on its territory and its continued commitment to protecting refugees’ right to safe, voluntary and dignified return to their homes in Myanmar.
Since this crisis began in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, Bangladesh has engaged constructively with the Government of Myanmar and the international community in order for Rohingya refugees to be able to voluntarily return to their places of origin or choice in Myanmar in conditions that are safe, dignified and sustainable.
The responsibility for creating conditions conducive for voluntary return lies with Myanmar. UNHCR appeals to Myanmar to exert all efforts to create these conditions and address the root causes of the refugees’ displacement, in line with the recommendations of the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. While UNHCR welcomes Myanmar’s commitment to voluntary return and the steps taken to receive potential returnees, it will be important for Myanmar to demonstrate concrete progress toward ensuring freedom of movement, access to services, documentation and livelihood opportunities. These steps would be essential to help build refugees’ confidence that the conditions in Myanmar have sufficiently changed to allow them to contemplate their return. Further, it is essential that UNHCR and UNDP be granted effective access to refugees’ places of origin and potential areas of return, in line with the tripartite MoU signed by UNHCR, UNDP and Myanmar in June 2018.
In this connection, UNHCR calls for international support for the Government of Myanmar’s efforts to create conditions that are conducive to refugees’ voluntary return in safety and dignity and which will allow for their durable reintegration. These efforts should be part of a coordinated and comprehensive plan of support that promotes social cohesion between all communities and lays the foundation for the longer term sustainable development of Rakhine State.
As the High Commissioner underscored in his statement on 11 November 2018, one way to demonstrate that progress has been made in Myanmar is by allowing refugees to undertake go-and-see visits. This would enable the refugees themselves to make an independent assessment of conditions in Rakhine State and relay this information to other refugees in Bangladesh.
UNHCR is prepared to support such visits and continues to work with all stakeholders to find a sustainable solution that will afford the refugees, and all communities in Rakhine State, a decent future.
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