UN wants humanitarian access, safe, voluntary repatriation of refugees

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DHAKA, Nov 2, 2017 (BSS) – The United Nations Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees Volker Turk has called for unrestricted humanitarian access to communities in need and for the voluntary return of refugees with safety and dignity in Rakhine state in Myanmar.

The UN official made the call during his two-day visit to Myanmar that concluded yesterday, according to an UNHCR statement here today.

Turk travelled to the Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw where he met with Myanmar’s Union Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor U Kyaw Tint Swe, National Security Advisor U Thaung Tun, Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Dr. Win Myat Aye and Minister of Labour, Immigration and Population U Thein Swe.

During his meetings, the UN Assistant High Commissioner urged Myanmar government to ensure a safe environment and the protection of all communities in Rakhine State and unrestricted access so that humanitarian actors can provide life-saving aid and build confidence among communities in need.

Turk reiterated the right of return of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled from Rakhine State to Bangladesh and appealed for their safe, voluntary, and sustainable repatriation to their places of origin.

The Assistant High Commissioner also emphasized the importance of the robust engagement of development stakeholders to invest in community-based programmes in Rakhine State that create conditions that enable sustainable reintegration of refugees.

Turk welcomed the government’s initiative to hold a joint workshop with UNHCR on the international standards guiding voluntary repatriation on October 31.

The Assistant High Commissioner reaffirmed that UNHCR stands ready to support the government and said he hoped that the workshop would be a step toward involving the UN Refugee Agency in the government’s plans for voluntary repatriation.

Turk further welcomed the renewed commitment of the government to rapidly implement the recommendations of the Advisory Commission of Rakhine State and highlighted that they provide an important roadmap for the way forward.

The Assistant High Commissioner for Protection’s regional visit will continue in Thailand and conclude in Bangladesh early next week, the statement said.

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