Business Day

Rohingya should be able to return to Myanmar, says UN refugee chief

- Stephanie Nebehay Geneva /Reuters

The UN refugee chief said on Wednesday the “big question” regarding the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh was whether they would be allowed to return to their homeland.

Filippo Grandi, UN High Commission­er for Refugees, said he hoped to discuss the statelessn­ess of Rohingya with Myanmar officials in Geneva next week but recognised it was a “very complex issue”.

“It is very clear that the cause of this crisis is in Myanmar, but that the solution of this crisis also lies in Myanmar,” he told a news conference in Geneva on his return from Bangladesh.

He called on the Myanmar authoritie­s to end the violence in northern Rakhine state so that solutions to the situation could then be discussed.

About 480,000 Rohingya have fled northern Rakhine since August 25 and accused the army of a campaign of violence that the UN has called “ethnic cleansing”, following attacks by Rohingya insurgents on police posts.

About 300,000 Rohingya had previously crossed into neighbouri­ng Bangladesh.

A Myanmar minister was quoted as saying on Wednesday that the Yangon government will manage the redevelopm­ent of villages torched during the violence in Rakhine state.

“Since it is most likely that return will take time, if it happens, if violence stops, it will be important also to find in the medium-term suitable solutions for the people that are in Bangladesh,” Grandi said. He called for Myanmar to implement the recommenda­tions of a commission led by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.

“The lack of citizenshi­p for the Rohingya, this needs to be addressed and resolved,” Grandi said.

“Clearly, if only the people with papers can go back, that will be a very small number, if at all,” Grandi said. “So, I think that the exercise should go beyond that and should really determine, if that is what is needed, who is a national, and those people should be allowed to go back and be given that citizenshi­p.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa