Rohingya repatriation to be under UN supervision: Michelle Bachelet

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Cox’s Bazar, Aug 16: Repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar will be under the supervision of the United Nations, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, as she said diplomatic efforts in this regard are on with the international community and Myanmar.

During her visit to Cox’s Bazar Rohingya camp on Tuesday, the UN human rights chief also assured the forcibly displaced people that the repatriation will be voluntary. She urged the Rohingyas to be patient about the repatriation.

Azim Ullah, a Rohingya religious leader who took part in a group discussion with Michelle Bachelet, said the UN delegation told them that the repatriation must be under the supervision of the United Nations.

Michelle Bachelet arrived at Ukhiya Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar around 9am on Tuesday. During her 4-hour visit to the camp, she held separate talks with Rohingya women, youth and religious representatives. The UN delegation also inspected the operations of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Najir Ahmed, another a Rohingya religious leader, said they informed the six-member UN delegation about their desire to return to their homeland as soon as the situation in Myanmar improves and Rohingya rights are guaranteed.

Expressing gratitude to Bangladesh for providing shelter, Najir told The Business Standard that they demanded the UN team to take effective initiatives to start the repatriation.

Amena Khatun, one of the Rohingya women who participated in the discussion, said that the delegation wanted to know about gender-based violence and the overall conditions of the camp.

The women informed the delegation that gender-based violence in the camps is now less than ever before. Kidnapping, rape and physical abuse of women have decreased, according to Amena Khatun.

She said Rohingya women called for more efforts by law enforcers for their safety and security.

Gol Bahar, another woman who participated in the discussion, said Rohingyas will return to their homeland if they get recognition of civil rights like other ethnic groups in Myanmar.

Rohingya youth Mohammad Yusuf said the delegation inquired about the law-and-order situation at the camp. The delegates were briefed on camp-based organised crimes, murders, kidnappings, ransoms and drug smuggling.

After visiting the Learning Centre for kids at Rohingya camp at 12:30pm, the delegation headed for Cox’s Bazar town. The delegation held a meeting with the officials of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner office at 2pm and left Cox’s Bazar for Dhaka.

In a four-day visit, Bachelet arrived in Dhaka on Sunday. On the first day of her visit, she held separate meetings with Law Minister Anisul Huq, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan and Education Minister Dipu Moni.

In those meetings, several human rights issues such as extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, freedom of expression and freedom of the media were discussed, according to sources.

On Monday, Bachelet met local rights activists and civil society members as they raised various human rights concerns. Among the issues brought up to Bachelet are the country’s human overall rights situation, forced disappearances, freedom of speech, upcoming national elections, digital security law and harassing human rights activists.

Michelle Bachelet is scheduled to call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday, join a seminar organised by Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) and hold a press briefing in the afternoon before wrapping up her tour.