REFUGEE CRISIS – UNHCR High Commissioner discusses how to deal with Myanmar’s refugees and displaced people
UNHCR High Commissioner discusses how to deal with Myanmar’s refugees and displaced people
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, made his first visit to Myanmar last week during which he made an appeal for inclusive and sustainable solutions to protracted displacement and statelessness.Myanmar, it can be argued, has long been in the midst of a refugee crisis – both in terms of those who have fled fighting or oppression to neighbouring countries or those who have had to flee their homes and are internally displaced – IDPs.
During his visit, Grandi travelled to Yangon, Nay Pyi Taw as well as Sittwe and Maungdaw in Rakhine State. He met with Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi; the Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, Dr Min Myat Aye; the Minister of Labour, Immigration and Population, Thein Swe; and the Minister of Border Affairs, Lt. Gen Ye Aung.
“I was very happy to hear the State Counsellor saying that refugees are welcome back from Thailand,” said the High Commissioner. “We agreed that returns must be voluntary and sustainable. Refugees should not come back to a situation of dependency but of self-reliance.”
They also discussed humanitarian access in Kachin and Rakhine states, where some 100,000 and 120,000 people respectively have been living for more than five years in camps for internally displaced people.
While in Rakhine State, the High Commissioner met with displaced Muslims in Sittwe’s Dar Paing camp, who expressed their strong desire to return home. He also reached out to Rakhine and Muslim communities north of Maungdaw and listened to their safety and livelihood concerns.
“These are complex issues but they are not intractable,” said Grandi. “A crucial first step is to pursue freedom of movement and access to services and livelihoods for all. Accelerated pathways to citizenship are also part of the solution, as are efforts to tackle exclusion and poverty.”
He highlighted that the recommendations of the Advisory Commission of Rakhine State provide an important roadmap for the way forward.
The High Commissioner then went on to visit Thailand and Bangladesh to discuss the refugee situation in both countries.
In addition, he granted the exclusive interview to Mizzima that follows.