Top UN official says it's still not safe to repatriate Rohingya to Myanmar
United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on Bangladesh on Tuesday to halt plans to repatriate 2,200 Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, warning their lives would be at "serious risk."
Forcibly returning or expelling refugees and asylum seekers to their home country would violate international law that forbids it to places where returnees face threats of persecution or their lives would be endangered, she said.
More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees crossed into Bangladesh from western Myanmar, UN agencies say, after Rohingya insurgent attacks on Myanmar security forces in August, 2017 triggered a sweeping military crackdown.
The two countries agreed on Oct. 30 to begin the returns in mid-November to Myanmar, also known as Burma. Earlier on Tuesday, a senior official of the UN refugee agency Volker Turk said conditions in Rakhine state were not yet conducive for Rohingya to return, citing restrictions on their movement and lack of political rights including citizenship.
"We are witnessing terror and panic among those Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar who are at imminent risk of being returned to Myanmar against their will," Bachelet said in a statement, adding that two men have attempted suicide.
'Almost complete lack of accountability'
"Human rights violations committed against the Rohingya in Myanmar amount to the worst atrocities, including crimes against humanity and possibly even genocide," Bachelet said, referring to atrocities documented by UN investigators.
"With an almost complete lack of accountability indeed with ongoing violations returning Rohingya refugees to Myanmar at this point effectively means throwing them back into the cycle of human rights violations that this community has been suffering for decades."
The UN human rights office continued to receive reports of ongoing violations committed against Rohingya in northern Rakhine, Myanmar – including alleged killings, disappearances and arbitrary arrests, Bachelet said.