UNHCR steps up call for unhindered access in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Two months ago, the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed on an arrangement for the voluntary return to Myanmar of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees currently living in the Cox’s Bazar area in Bangladesh. The bilateral arrangement outlines important commitments by both governments to ensuring the voluntary and safe return of refugees to their places of origin in Myanmar.
As of today, the necessary safeguards for potential returnees are absent, and there are continued restrictions on access for aid agencies, the media and other independent observers. At the same time, refugees from Rakhine state continue to arrive in Bangladesh.
To ensure the right of refugees to return voluntarily, and in safety and in dignity, we call again on Myanmar to allow the necessary unhindered humanitarian access in Rakhine state and create conditions for a genuine and lasting solution. Access would allow for assessment of the actual return conditions and the long-term viability of the returns, as well as help address the legitimate safety concerns for any refugees contemplating their return there. Refugees need to be properly informed and consulted about such conditions in order for returns to be safe, voluntary and sustainable.
A key step towards a lasting solution has been Myanmar’s commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission. Turning these recommendations — which call for peace and security for all communities in Rakhine state, inter-communal dialogue, freedom of movement, access to livelihoods and achieving solutions for the legal and citizenship status of Muslim communities — into a reality on the ground is essential to building confidence for returns and addressing the tense inter-communal situation that has built up over many years in Rakhine state. Without this, the risk of dangerous and rushed returns into a situation where violence might reignite is too great to be ignored.
UNHCR remains prepared to work with both governments towards finding a long-term solution to this crisis in the interest of the refugees themselves, of both governments, the host community in Bangladesh and all communities in Rakhine state.
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