Myanmar makes life for Rohingya 'a death sentence'

Pauline Gross
February 17, 2018

"Conditions are not yet conducive to the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees", United Nations refugee chief Filippo Grandi told the Security Council.

More than 688,000 refugees have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since late August in a rapid, chaotic outflow driven by violence that follows decades of deep repression and exclusion in their homeland.

Measures should be adopted by Myanmar "to address the root cause of poverty through development" in Rakhine, he said, sidestepping appeals for citizenship rights for the Rohingya.

He said construction of structures to support the return of refugees is important — "but should not be confused with the establishment of conditions conducive to voluntary repatriation".

The current crisis that sent about 700,000 refugees - majority Rohingya Muslims - across the border to Bangladesh followed attacks on Myanmar security posts in August 2017 by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which is led by Karachi-born Ata Ullah leading to counterattacks by the armed forces and vigilantes. Suan said that although there have been no major clashes during the last six months, "there is always a threat of ARSA terrorists who are taking refuge among innocent peoples" returning.

Myanmar has said that 508 Hindus are among around 1,000 refugees cleared for the first batch to be repatriated to their homes from Bangladesh.

"The causes of this crisis originate in Myanmar, and a genuine search for solutions must finally start".

Grandi was speaking from Jordan where he was on mission.

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Myanmar regards the Rohingya as immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship, even though they have been there for generations.

The Rohingya crisis "cannot be solved overnight", said Chinese Ambassador Ma Zhaoxu. That offer remains open.

Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and Miroslav Jenca, Assistant Secretary General of Department of Political Affairs (DPA), briefed the meeting about the current state of play with the possible voluntary return of Rohingyas to Myanmar.

"Allowing internally displaced people to return home, and fast-tracking confirmation of their citizenship would send a strong signal to refugees". "An end to violence and destruction of property and granting humanitarian access throughout Rakhine State - as called for by the Secretary-General (Antonio Guterres) - were critical, basic steps", he said. We estimate that more than 100,000 refugees are living in areas prone to flooding or landslides.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the Myanmar government has incarcerated the journalists for the crime of reporting the truth.

Disease outbreaks - including diphtheria - remain a significant risk at the sprawling settlements.

That was meant to start last month, but was delayed by a lack of preparations and protests by Rohingya refugees, most of whom say they do not wish to return without guarantees of safety. "The Bangladeshi Government is steering a massive emergency preparedness effort, but worldwide support must be stepped up to avert a catastrophe", he said, stressing, "as we have repeatedly said, resolving this crisis means finding solutions inside Myanmar".

Other reports by GizPress

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