Bangladeshi PM tells UN Myanmar must bring Rohingya back

DACA, Bangladesh –

Bangladesh’s leader told a visiting UN official Wednesday that hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Rohingya ethnic minority living in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh must return to their homes in Myanmar, where they had fled waves of violent persecution. .

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made the remarks before the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka. Bachelet arrived on Sunday and visited Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar district, near the border with Myanmar.

“The Rohingya are citizens of Myanmar and they must be returned,” Hasina said, according to her press secretary, Ihsanul Karim.

Muslim Rohingya face widespread discrimination in majority Buddhist Myanmar, where most are denied citizenship and many other rights. More than 700,000 fled to Bangladesh starting in late August 2017, when the Myanmar military launched a “clean-up operation” against them following attacks by a rebel group. The security situation in Myanmar has worsened after a military takeover last year.

Currently, Bangladesh hosts more than 1 million Rohingya refugees.

The refugees will mark the fifth anniversary of their latest influx into Bangladesh amid failed attempts to send them home. Earlier this month, Bangladesh sought China’s cooperation in repatriating the Rohingya to Myanmar during a visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi. China had brokered a November 2017 deal with Myanmar aimed at sending them back.

Hasina and several cabinet ministers earlier expressed frustration at what they called Myanmar’s inaction in accepting them back under the deal. The UN and Bangladeshi authorities have tried at least twice to start the repatriations, but the refugees refused to go, citing security problems in Myanmar.

When Bachelet visited the camps on Wednesday, the refugees urged the UN to help improve security inside Myanmar so they could return.

The UN said in a statement that the refugees described “their grievances, their pains” to Bachelet.

“When our rights are respected, we can have our livelihood again, and we can have land, and we can feel that we are part of the country,” he was told by quoted refugees.

Bachelet emphasized the importance of ensuring that safe and sustainable conditions exist and that any return is carried out in a voluntary and dignified manner, she said.

“The UN is doing the best it can to support them. We will continue to do so,” he said. “But we also need to address the deep roots of the problem. We need to address that and make sure they can return to Myanmar, when the conditions for safety and voluntary return exist.”

In March, the United States said the oppression of the Rohingya in Myanmar amounts to genocide after authorities confirmed accounts of mass atrocities against civilians by the Myanmar military in a widespread and systematic campaign against the ethnic minority.

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