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Before going back, Rohingyas want their rights protected

14 January 2018, 11:47:00

Rohingyas, now living in Bangladesh, want to see certain positive developments including right to citizenship before returning to their homeland- Myanmar. 

“A majority of Rohingyas those interviewed indicated that before considering returning to Myanmar they would need to see some positive developments, in particular in relation to citizenship, security, and the possibility for them to enjoy their basic rights,” says the UNHCR on Saturday.

Some Rohingyas have also asked for reassurances about UNHCR’s involvement in the process, being familiar with UNHCR’s role and assistance in past efforts to assist refugees to return to Myanmar, according to an ‘operational update’ shared by the UN agency.

Some 655,000 people have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 2017. 

There were more than 2,200 new arrivals between December 1 and 26 last year, a significant decrease in arrival trends compared to November, which saw the arrival of over 12,700 Rohingyas in November.

In December, the majority of arrivals (over 1,900) arrived through the Mogpara/Sabrang border point, on the southernmost tip of Bangladesh.

UNHCR said it is working with the Bangladesh government and partners to ensure protection and assistance for refugees. 

UNHCR’s support also aimed at ensuring that local host communities affected by the unprecedented influx are considered and assisted. 

On November 23, 2017, the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a bilateral ‘arrangement’ on the return of refugees to Myanmar. 

A Joint Working Group (JWG) consisting of government representatives from Myanmar and Bangladesh was subsequently formed on December 19. 

The JWG is tasked to develop a specific instrument on the physical arrangement for the repatriation of returnees. 

UNHCR said it continues to offer its technical support to both Governments to establish a voluntary repatriation framework in line with international standards, with a view to ensuring that any returns occur in conditions of voluntariness and safety — and in a sustainable manner. 

The first meeting of the JWG is planned to take place on Monday in Myanmar capital. Reported:UNB.

The two countries are likely to finalize ‘physical arrangements’ in the JWG meeting to start repatriation of Rohingyas. 

UNHCR offers to help the governments to ensure international standards are contemplated.

Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque will lead the Bangladesh delegation at the meeting, an official told. 

A 14-member Bangladesh is scheduled to leave for Myanmar on Sunday afternoon. 

UNHCR has been sampling Rohingyas’ views on return. 

The UNHCR said the biggest challenge to refugee protection is the environment of the camps. UNHCR and partners are working to address the logistical challenges of bringing large amounts of aid.

The UN refugee agency said they are concerned about the potential risk of human trafficking and smuggling in the refugee settlements, with some reports from refugees of parents being approached with offers to take their children away and for a better life for women and men through marriage arrangements and jobs.

UNHCR said they are developing anti-trafficking awareness materials and working with partners to highlight risks to refugees.

In December, UNHCR’s partner Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association (BNLWA) conducted awareness sessions on trafficking for almost 3,000 refugees and 120 community representatives. These efforts will continue in 2018.

The UN agency said the significant demands on the humanitarian response for Bangladesh need to be recognised. 

“The response of the Government and people of Bangladesh has been extraordinarily generous. However, additional support is needed,” it said.

UNHCR hoped that the commitment of Bangladesh towards supporting refugees’ immediate needs and finding solutions will continue to be supported by the international community with adequate financial contributions and with other support in 2018. 

To date, the UN agency said, the support has been encouraging with 85 percent of UNHCR’s initial appeal for US$ 83.7 million received. 

An inter-agency Joint Response Plan (JRP), covering the period from March to December 2018 is presently being finalised.

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