Although the second attempt to repatriate hundreds of Rohingyas on Thursday appears to have failed, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) sees Myanmar’s engagement in the process as a ‘positive step.’
The UN refugee agency says voluntary repatriation requires engagement of all parties to build trust and it is a process, not ‘a one-off event.’
Some 740,000, mostly Muslim Rohingya refugees fled a military crackdown in 2017 in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, joining around 200,000 already in Bangladesh. The country is currently hosting to nearly 1,100,000 Rohingyas at different refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar.
Some 3,500 Rohingya refugees were cleared for repatriation to Myanmar following a joint exercise led by the UNHCR and the Bangladesh government.
Bangladesh's foreign ministry had forwarded a list of more than 22,000 refugees to Myanmar for verification and Naypyidaw cleared 3,450 individuals for ‘return.’
The latest repatriation attempt -- after a previous push failed in November -- follows a visit last month to the camps by high-ranking officials from Myanmar led by Permanent Foreign Secretary Myint Thu.
According to the UNHCR, it was an “important first step and the dialogue should continue.”
Citing discussions with Rohingya refugees this week, UNHCR said that many [rohingyas] stated that they do hope to go home to Myanmar as soon as conditions allow and that assurances regarding their citizenship status, freedom of movement, and security in Myanmar could be provided.