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UN urges BD to halt Rohingya return

Updated November 14, 2018

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Rohingya people find refuge at Kutupalong refugee camp near the town of Ukhia in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district on August 29, 2017. — AFP/File photo
Rohingya people find refuge at Kutupalong refugee camp near the town of Ukhia in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district on August 29, 2017. — AFP/File photo

TEKNAF UPAZILA (Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh): The UN rights chief on Tuesday urged Bangladesh to halt imminent plans to start returning Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, warning doing so risked further grave violations against the Muslim minority.

Bangladesh authorities say they will begin returning Rohingya refugees, who have fled what the UN has called ethnic cleansing, to the Buddhist majority country from Thursday.

The prospect has created panic in the camps, prompting some families who were due to be among the first to be repatriated to flee, community leaders said.

The UN rights office said it continued to receive reports of ongoing violations against Rohingya still in Myanmar and urged Dhaka to reconsider.

“We are witnessing terror and panic among those Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazaar who are at imminent risk of being returned to Myanmar against their will,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

“Forcibly expelling or returning refugees and asylum seekers to their home country would be a clear violation of the core legal principle of non-refoulement, which forbids repatriation where there are threats of persecution or serious risks to the life and physical integrity or liberty of the individuals.”

More than 720,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state following a military crackdown from August last year, bringing with them stories of murders, rapes and torture. They have joined some 300,000 Rohingya already living in squalid camps in Bangladesh for years.

Some 2,260 Rohingya Muslims had been scheduled to leave the Bangladesh border post in the Cox’s Bazaar district in the first repatriations from Thursday under the voluntary scheme.

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2018