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Myanmar, UNHCR, UNDP sign MoU

Geneva, June 6: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) signed on Wednesday an agreement with Myanmar to ensure the safe repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh. The UNHCR said in a statement that the MoU, signed in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, will create conditions favourable to the “voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya refugees to their places of origin or their choosing”, Efe news agency reported.

Last week, the UN agency had said in a statement that the agreement would be the first necessary step to support Myanmar’s efforts to address the safety situation to enable the return of the Rohingyas and support development projects in the state of Rakhine, home to a majority of more than the 800,000 Rohingyas who fled an offensive by Myanmar Army last year. According to the agreement, the UNHCR and UNDP would be given access to Rakhine to assess the situation and “carry out protection activities.” The agreement also affirms Myanmar’s commitment to work with UNHCR and UNDP to find a solution to the Rohingya crisis, including establishing a clear and voluntary pathway to citizenship and ensuring freedom of movement for all people in the state, based on the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.

The Rohingya crisis had erupted on August 25 last year when the Myanmar Army launched an offensive in the Rakhine region following a series of attacks on government posts by Rohingya rebels. The Rohingyas, a mostly Muslim minority community that has been living in northern Myanmar, are not recognized as citizens by Myanmar and are therefore considered stateless.

Human rights organisations have repeatedly said there were clear evidences of abuses, including rape, loot and torching of villages, against Rohingyas as part of the offensive in Rakhine. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had described the offensive as “ethnic cleansing” and said there were indications of a “genocide”. (IANS)