It is very disappointing to learn from a joint statement by UNHCR, UN Refugee Agency, and UN Development Programme that Myanmar has not granted their staff independent and effective access to the Rakhine State. Although it signed a tripartite MoU with UNHCR and UNDP on Rohingya repatriation last June, according to which the UN should start their work in the northern part of Rakhine State to help the country create conducive conditions for Rohingya repatriation, the Myanmar government has not yet responded to the travel authorisation requests of the UN's international staff.
According to the UN, the freedom of movement of the remaining Rohingya communities in the Rakhine is being strictly restricted, preventing them from being able to work, go to school, and access healthcare. They are also being prevented from interacting with friends and family. It is clear from the situation there that Rohingya repatriation is not possible without creating favourable conditions. In order to create that environment, the UN agencies must be given free access to the state so that they can start their work by consulting with the communities in Rakhine about their needs.
Since a Joint Working Group (JWG) team, led by the foreign minister of Bangladesh, is visiting the Myanmar at present to observe the situation on the ground, we hope that the Myanmar government would be able to tell us precisely what tangible progress has been made by them to improve the conditions in Rakhine for the safe and sustainable return of the displaced Rohingya communities. At the same time, the UN and the international community should mount pressure on Myanmar government so that they honour the deals signed for Rohingya repatriation.