United Nations aid agencies called on Myanmar yesterday to improve conditions in Rakhine state for the safe return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh and provide a clear pathway to citizenship for those eligible. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and U.N. Development Program (UNDP) said in a joint statement that they needed full access to Rakhine state and were still awaiting permission for international staff to be based in the town of Maungdaw following requests made on June 14.
The United Nations signed an outline deal with Myanmar in early June aimed at eventually allowing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in Bangladesh to return safely and by choice. But the secret agreement, seen by Reuters, offers no explicit guarantees of citizenship or freedom of movement throughout the country.
The agreement was supposed to let the U.N. help Myanmar create conditions on the ground that would be conducive to a safe and voluntary return for the stateless Rohingya, many of whom are currently languishing in camps in southeast Bangladesh. So far they have refused to come back without any guarantee of security or basic rights such as citizenship.
The U.N. agencies said that substantial progress was urgently needed in three key areas: "granting effective access in Rakhine State; ensuring freedom of movement for all communities; and addressing the root causes of the crisis."
An estimated 700,000 Rohingya have fled over the border to Bangladesh since an army crackdown was launched in Rakhine state in August. Myanmar blames Rohingya militants for an Aug. 25 strike on security posts in Rakhine state that triggered a fierce army crackdown. At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine state from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24, according to Doctors without Borders. In a report last December, the global humanitarian group said the deaths of 71.7 percent, or 6,700 Rohingya, were caused by violence. The stateless Rohingya have been the target of communal violence and vicious anti-Muslim sentiment in mainly Buddhist Myanmar for years.
Myanmar has been accused of the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in Rakhine after it launched operations in August last year, with security forces reportedly having engaged in killings, torture, rape, and arson. The U.N. said that Rohingya remaining in Rakhine are under local orders that severely restrict their freedom of movement, preventing them from reaching jobs, school and health care, and called for these to be lifted.