Rohingya refugees cannot be expected to return safely, voluntarily and sustainably from Bangladesh to Myanmar's Rakhine State as the situation remains extremely concerning there, the United Nations has said ahead of the Security Council delegation's four-day visit to the two countries.
“Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that the situation in Rakhine State remains extremely concerning. There are continued reports of departures from northern Rakhine, and some reports of threats and extortion against Muslim communities,” Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric told a press briefing on Thursday in New York.
A 15-member UNSC delegation is due to arrive in Cox's Bazar this afternoon for a firsthand look at the plight of over 700,000 Rohingyas, who had begun to arrive in the district, fleeing Myanmar since August 25 last year amid a military crackdown.
The delegation will also visit the several hundred thousand Rohingyas who remain in the northern Rakhine State.
Referring to humanitarian colleagues in Myanmar, the spokesperson said the bulldozing of burned or abandoned villages remained evident, and the movement restrictions placed on Rohingya communities remained in place, including for those trapped in camps for the last six years in central Rakhine.
Around 500,000 Rohingyas are still living in Rakhine, facing continued discrimination and marginalisation, Stéphane said.
“Severe restrictions on their freedom of movement persist, grossly restricting their access to health care, education and livelihoods.
“Our humanitarian colleagues stress that refugees from Bangladesh cannot be expected to safely, voluntarily and sustainably return.”
The United Nations is ready to work with the government of Myanmar in implementing the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission, Stéphane added.
AP reports, Britain's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Karen Pierce, on the eve of the UNSC delegation's arrival, said the most important thing was that the body charged with maintaining international peace and security “can see for itself the situation on the ground in a very desperate case of alleged human rights violations and abuses and crimes against humanity.”
The council will also be able “to draw attention to what it considers are the most flagrant human rights abuses and violations, and what needs to be done next to help Myanmar develop as a modern political and economic entity, and to help create the conditions where the refugees can go home in safety and security and dignity,” she said.
The UNSC delegation left New York late Thursday. After visiting the Rohingyas living in makeshift camps in Cox's Bazar, they will visit Dhaka for a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday morning and talks with other high government officials before leaving for Myanmar.
The delegation will visit Myanmar's capital, Naypyitaw and talk with government high ups before travelling to Rakhine on Tuesday.
The team members would include the permanent representative of the UK and the deputy permanent representatives of the USA, Russia, France and China. The five countries are the permanent members of the council.
The other members would be permanent representatives from Bolivia, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Sweden and deputy permanent representative from Ivory Coast.
Foreign diplomats in Dhaka told The Daily Star that major UN efforts were underway to help Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.