US cautions against premature return of Rohingyas

Brajesh Upadhyay, Washington
Published : 01:30, Nov 11, 2018 | Updated : 01:30, Nov 11, 2018

Rohingya women hold placards as they take part in a protest at the Kutupalong refugee camp to mark the one-year anniversary of their exodus in Cox`s Bazar, Bangladesh, August 25, 2018. REUTERSThe IS has joined the UN in expressing its “serious concern” about the premature return of Rohingyas to Myanmar, saying the conditions are not yet conducive for repatriation.
A statement issued by a State Department spokesperson said full access to Burma is needed to understand the conditions in areas of return, and has urged both Bangladesh and Myanmar to adhere to a repatriation process “that allows for the voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return of refugees.”
“We have engaged both governments at the highest levels to express our serious concerns about premature returns, and to emphasise that, consistent with international practice, returns be informed, voluntary, safe, and dignified,” said the statement.
Washington has also urged Naypyidaw to create conditions for voluntary repatriation and provide access to a transparent and efficient citizenship verification process, freedom of movement, access to livelihoods, and other key recommendations of the Annan Commission.
It has also urged Myanmar government to address the root causes of the crisis in the Rakhine State and play a constructive role in resolving the situation.
The US statement follows a joint letter from 42 NGOs working in Myanmar and Bangladesh that warned of the dangers of premature return of Rohingyas, which includes names like International Rescue Committee, Oxfam, and Save The Children among others.
A Rohingya woman at a refugee camp. FILE PHOTO“The involuntary return of refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar, where their lives and safety remain at grave risk, is a violation of the fundamental principle of non-refoulement,” said the letter.
“The refugees are terrified about what will happen to them if they are returned to Myanmar now, and distressed by the lack of information they have received,” it added.
Earlier, an independent UN human rights expert had urged a halt to "rushed plans" to repatriate some Rohingyas to Myanmar.
Special rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee had said that a lack of guarantees the refugees wouldn't face new persecution if they returned home was concerning.
"I have not seen any evidence of the government of Myanmar taking concrete and visible measures to create an environment where the Rohingya can return to their place of origin and live there safely with their fundamental rights guaranteed," Mr Lee had said in Geneva.
Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a deal last week announcing a plan to repatriate approximately 2,000 Rohingyas beginning mid-November.
Rohingya refugee girls walk along the Kutupalong camp in Cox`s Bazar, Bangladesh, October 13, 2018. REUTERSMore than a year ago, nearly 700,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh after a spate of killings and violence.
A UN investigation accused the Myanmar military of carrying out the violence and called the killings a massacre with "genocidal intent". A US investigation, too, found direct involvement of the military in the violence but stopped short of declaring it genocide.
Myanmar has denied the allegations, saying it was a counter-terrorism operation against Rohingya insurgents. It has also refused access to aid groups to the violence-affected areas.