Myanmar, U.N. Reach Deal to Prepare for Rohingya Returns
Myanmar and two United Nations agencies have reached an agreement to facilitate the eventual return of Rohingya refugees.
“Since the conditions are not conducive for voluntary return yet, the MoU [memorandum of understanding] is the first and necessary step to support the government’s efforts to change that situation,” said a statement from the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) and the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP).
Rohingya refugees have issued a list of demands before they feel safe to return, including the right to citizenship, permission to return to their homes – not government-run camps – and justice for atrocities.
The UNHCR and UNDP said the forthcoming MoU will give the two agencies access to assess the situation in western Rakhine state, the center of last year’s violence against the Rohingya, which sent 700,000 fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.
Myanmar authorities rendered the area largely off-limits to international agencies in the wake of the violence, for which it faces possible sanctions and an International Criminal Court probe.
This week, Myanmar also announced it would set up an independent commission to investigate human-rights violations, with the participation of international experts, without giving further details.
Experts say the two announcements are intended to rehabilitate the reputation of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, which is in tatters after the Rohingya exodus, but warn that the U.N. may come under pressure to facilitate returns before Rohingya are ready, pointing to forced repatriations in the past.
Lebanon Plans Refugee Returns to Syria as Aid Dwindles
Lebanon is in talks with the Syrian regime to return refugees to their homes, a senior security official said.
“There are contacts with the Syrian authorities about thousands of Syrians who want to return to Syria,” Maj.-Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, head of Lebanon’s General Security agency, said. “The stay of Syrians in Lebanon will not go on for a long time. There is intensive work by the political authority.”
The UNHCR said it was “aware of several return movements of Syrian refugees being planned to Syria” and was in contact with General Security on the issue. While the top echelons of the Lebanese government have been pressing for speedy, and even involuntary, returns, the U.N. and the international community say it is not yet safe for returns to Syria.
At the same time, international aid to countries hosting the vast majority of Syrian refugees is dwindling. U.N. agencies this week appealed for more funds to support basic services to Syrians in the region, noting that the 2018 appeal for $5.6 billion is only 20 percent funded.
In Lebanon, only 12 percent of requested aid has been delivered this year.
Asylum Seekers Hurt As Croatian Police Open Fire on Van From Bosnia
Nine people were wounded when Croatian police opened fire on a van bringing asylum seekers into the European Union country from Bosnia.
Two 12-year-old children were seriously hurt but in a stable condition. The van was transporting 29 people from Afghanistan and Iraq seeking asylum in Europe.
Police said the van crashed through a roadblock and sped toward them, after which the driver fled.
A new Balkan route through Bosnia has grown this year with people seeking passage to Europe.
- Project Syndicate: Venezuelans Deserve Refugee Status
- The Guardian: There’s a Workable Alternative to Australia’s Asylum Policy
- The New York Times: Race Against the Rains
- The Conversation: Abandoned by the British, Afghan Interpreters Explain How They Wait for Years Seeking Safety