Myanmar and Bangladesh are to make a fresh attempt to begin repatriating the Rohingya Muslims who fled ethnic cleansing in Rahkine state in 2017, though the community say they have not been consulted.
More than 700,000 Rohingya fled over to border to Bangladesh after a military-led crackdown in Rahkine state which saw villages razed, women raped and thousands killed. A UN fact-finding mission declared the violence had “genocidal intent”.
A document prepared by UN agency UNHCR to be sent to the Rohingya community to inform them of the repatriation plan said: “The Government of Myanmar has confirmed that 3,450 Rohingya refugees are eligible to return. This is a welcome first step as it acknowledges that your right to return is recognized.”
According to UNHCR, the Bangladesh government shared the names of Rohingya approved for repatriation with the UN agency on 8 August.
Louise Donovan, a UNHCR spokeswoman in Cox’s Bazar, said: “If any express the intention to return voluntarily, UNHCR will meet with them on an individual basis and in a confidential setting to confirm the voluntariness of their decision and complete a voluntary repatriation form. The refugees will make the decision themselves.”
She emphasised that “refugees who decide to exercise their right to return must be able to return to their places of origin or a place of their choice.”
However, the situation is complex as UNHCR have no access to Rahkine state so are unable to verify first hand the conditions the Rohingya would be returning to. “Responsibility for ensuring conditions are conducive for safe and dignified return rests with Myanmar,” said Donovan.