Refugees Magazine, 1 March 1997
The largest repatriation programme in Asia as 250,000 Muslims return to Myanmar from Bangladesh.
Myanmar's northern Rakhine State is one of the most inhospitable parts of Asia. Most of the tropical region situated along the Bay of Bengal is roadless mountain and accessible to inhabitants and aid workers only by boat, motorcycle or on foot. In the rainy season it is one of the wettest places on earth and in the dry season one of the hottest with temperatures reaching above 45 degrees.
For the last three years UNHCR has been overseeing the return of an estimated quarter-million refugees from neighbouring Bangladesh to Myanmar; it is currently the largest organized repatriation in Asia. The population had originally fled during regional unrest in 1991-92.
More than 90 percent of the refugees have returned home and with most of the 20 camps in Bangladesh already closed, UNHCR hopes to complete the repatriation part of its operation later this year. UNHCR and its implementing agencies will continue their involvement in the region, monitoring the situation and financing small self-help projects to help stabilize the Muslim population and minimize the likelihood of another outflow.
Source: Refugees Magazine issue 107 (1997)