Refugees International (RI) notes the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Development Program with the Government of Myanmar which would allow the return of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar. However, RI is deeply concerned that continued impunity, restricted access to aid, and denial of basic human rights in Myanmar’s Rakhine State make repatriation a distant reality at this time.
In a recent report, RI recommended that “a Memorandum of Understanding between UNHCR, the UN Development Program, and the Government of Myanmar should be concluded as a framework in support of [repatriation] efforts.” UNHCR’s engagement in the process is welcome and its inclusion in a framework for returns will be an important step toward ensuring that any improvement of conditions in Myanmar can be independently verified. However, RI urges that the text of the MOU be made public and warns that conditions for Rohingya in Myanmar remain appalling.
“The ultimate goal for resolving the Rohingya crisis must be safe, voluntary, and dignified return of the Rohingya to their homeland in Myanmar. But the sad reality is that conditions in Myanmar are far from safe for the Rohingya who remain in Myanmar, let alone those who might seek to return,” said RI Senior Advocate for Human Rights Dan Sullivan.
Rohingya in Rakhine State continue to live with heavily restricted rights and access to aid, and there has been minimal accountability for the crimes against humanity committed by the Myanmar military. While the height of the ethnic cleansing campaign has passed, at least 8,000 Rohingya have continued to flee into Bangladesh in the first half of 2018, most citing hunger and ongoing security concerns as reasons for seeking refuge.
For more on repatriation concerns as well as the humanitarian crisis faced by Rohingya in Bangladesh see RI’s May 2018 report, Unnatural Disaster: Aid Restrictions Endangering Rohingya ahead of Monsoons in Bangladesh.