US, UN warn against Rohingya repatriation plan

The United States and United Nations' top human rights official have expressed concern at a plan to repatria...

Posted: Nov 14, 2018 2:22 AM
Updated: Nov 14, 2018 2:22 AM

The United States and United Nations' top human rights official have expressed concern at a plan to repatriate thousands of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar beginning this week, warning that such a move is premature.

On Sunday, Myanmar's Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement announced that it would repatriate 150 refugees per day for two weeks beginning Thursday. The names of 2,260 people set to be repatriated during the two weeks are taken from a list of 8,032 identified by both Bangladesh and Myanmar as verified refugees from Myanmar.

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The UNHCR -- the UN's refugee agency -- has repeatedly warned of the risk of resettling the refugees. In a statement on Tuesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet reiterated those concerns and called on the government of Bangladesh to stop the plans for repatriation.

"The human rights violations committed against the Rohingya in Myanmar amount to the worst atrocities, including crimes against humanity and possibly even genocide. With an almost complete lack of accountability -- indeed with ongoing violations -- returning Rohingya refugees to Myanmar at this point effectively means throwing them back into the cycle of human rights violations that this community has been suffering for decades," she said in a statement.

"The history of the Rohingya in Myanmar is one filled with repeated episodes of violence, flight and return," Bachelet added. "We need to speak with one voice to stop this cycle from repeating itself yet again."

The US State Department affirmed its support for the UNHCR's position that conditions are not conducive for the Rohingya to return.

"We have engaged both governments at the highest levels to express our serious concerns about premature returns, and to emphasize that, consistent with international practice, returns be informed, voluntary, safe, and dignified," a State Department spokesperson said.

More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh from August 2017 to August 2018 to escape a brutal campaign of violence carried out by Myanmar's security forces. The atrocities committed against the Muslim minority included mass rapes, murders and destruction of villages, according to UN and State Department investigations.

More than 10,000 people were killed, according to the UN; it has called for Myanmar's military leaders to be investigated and prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

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