Any return of the Rohingya refugees who took shelter in Bangladesh must be voluntary, safe and dignified, the UNHCR assistant high commissioner for protection said yesterday.
Volker Türk, the UNHCR official, also appreciated the role of Bangladesh in tackling the Rohingya issue and assured the country of full support from his agency.
“The people of Bangladesh and its authority have our full appreciation and admiration. You have literally saved over 6,00,000 lives by opening the border and allowing the Rohingyas to enter," he told a press conference.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) organised the conference at a hotel in the capital after Türk concluded his five-day visit to the Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar.
“Your initiative was extremely noble and honourable, and you deserve full support from the international communities and the UN,” he said.
Replying to a question, the commissioner said, “It is clear that we need to fight for the return of the refugees who fled from Rakhine State. It is obvious that the people who fled are in a very vulnerable and extremely dire situation.”
About Myanmar government's delay in solving the crisis, he recommended having patience and be persistent to ensure Rohingyas' right to return to their country. He said, “We also need to ensure the return is sustainable.”
The commissioner said, “We also have to listen carefully to the needs of the host community in Cox's Bazar.
“We need to work with the government of Myanmar and its people to help them implement the Rakhine commission report. Of course, it won't be easy, but we need to start the process,” he also said.
In a UNHCR press release issued last night, Türk said, “For return to happen, it's clear there has to be safety and guarantees of protection. There has to be a very serious commitment to immediately implementing the recommendations of the commission's report".
UNHCR FAMILY COUNTDOWN
One-third of the Rohingya families, who took shelter at Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, are in a vulnerable situation because of serious health problems and harsh condition of the camp, UNHCR found after conducting a recent family countdown.
Of them, about 14 percent are single mothers holding their families together with little support in harsh camp conditions, while others are struggling with serious health problems or disabilities, it found.
The UN refugee agency revealed the findings yesterday after finishing the first phase of the Rohingya refugee family counting, where 120,284 families comprising 517,643 refugees from Myanmar have so far been counted, said a statement of UNHCR.
According to UNHCR, around 6,07,000 Rohingyas estimated to have fled to Bangladesh following the torture by the Myanmar authorities on the Muslim minority in Myanmar's Rakhine since August 25.