The assistant high commissioner also emphasized the implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State
A top official of the UNHCR has indicated that the repatriation of Rohingya refugees, who took shelter in Bangladesh after fleeing atrocities in Myanmar, is going to be a long haul process.
“It is a complex issue. We have to be patient,” said UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner (Protection) Volker Turk during a press conference at a hotel in Dhaka on Thursday.
“The problem lies in Myanmar, and the solution will also have to come from Myanmar,” he added.
Referring to his conversations with Rohingya refugees living in temporary settlements in Cox’s Bazar, Turk said: “The Rohingyas want to return to their homes in Rakhine, and it is the responsibility of the Myanmar government to ensure their repatriation, which must be based on voluntariness, while ensuring dignity and safety.”
The assistant high commissioner also emphasized the implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, which include granting the Rohingyas citizenship as part of measures to address the root causes of the Rohingya crisis.
“The UNHCR is engaged with the Myanmar government in regard to the pathway to a safe, voluntary, dignified, and secure repatriation. This depends on the action of the Myanmar government,” Turk said.
“The peaceful coexistence of communities in Rakhine is crucial for any lasting peace,” he added.
In response to a question on the relocation of the Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar to Bhashan Char in Noakhali, Turk said the UNHCR is in constant discussion with the Bangladesh government on the issue.
"We welcome the fact that the Government of Bangladesh has recognized that the Rohingya settlements in Cox's Bazar are congested," he said, emphasizing the need for ensuring the livelihood of Rohingyas should they be transferred to the island.
Turk also praised Bangladesh and the Cox's Bazar host communities, saying a million lives were saved by their efforts.
Furthermore, Turk pledged to make sure that international attention does not drift away from the plight of the Rohingyas.
Over 700,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh since an army crackdown in Rakhine State in Myanmar in August, 2017. The military crackdown was prompted by Rohingya insurgents' attacks on 30 police posts and an army base in Myanmar on August 25 that year.
Subsequently, a UN mandated fact-finding mission said Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Muslim Rohingya with “genocidal intent” and called for top generals to be prosecuted. Myanmar rejected the findings.