UNHCR, UNDP agree on text of MoU with Myanmar for the return of Rohingya refugees

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have agreed on text of a Memorandum of Understaning (MoU) with Myanmar government to support the creation of conditions for the return of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh.

Around 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh to escape a brutal military campaign that began in August last year following attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on the security forces in Rakhine state.

UNHCR and UNDP agreed on 31 May in Nay Pyi Taw with the Government of Myanmar on the text for the tripartite MoU. It is planned that the MoU will be signed in the course of the next week, the exact date of which is still to be confirmed.

“This tripartite Memorandum will establish a framework for cooperation aimed at creating the conditions conducive to the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya refugees to their places of origin or of their choosing. Since the conditions are not conducive for voluntary return yet, the MoU is the first and necessary step to support the Government’s efforts to change that situation and is also intended to support recovery and resilience-based development for the benefit of all communities living in Rakhine State,” a joint statement from UNHCR and UNDP said.

“The agreement will provide a framework for UNHCR and UNDP to be given access to Rakhine State, including to refugees’ places of origin and areas of potential return that has not been permitted since violence broke out in August 2017. The access, once effective, will allow UNHCR to assess the conditions on the ground and carry out protection activities. This will also enable UNHCR to eventually provide independent information to refugees about the conditions in their places of origin, helping them to make informed decisions if the conditions are right for them to return in safety and dignity. The MoU will also allow the two UN agencies to carry out needs assessments in affected communities and strengthen the capacity of local authorities to support the voluntary repatriation process”, it said.

The MoU, once signed, will affirm the Myanmar Government’s commitment to work with UNHCR and UNDP to find a solution for the Rohingya population, in line with the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. The recommendations include establishing a clear and voluntary pathway to citizenship and ensuring freedom of movement for all people in Rakhine State, irrespective of religion, ethnicity or citizenship status.

On April 13 this year, the Government of Bangladesh and UNHCR also signed a MoU relating to voluntary returns of Rohingya refugees once conditions in Myanmar are deemed conducive.

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