US appeals for 'dignified' return of Rohingya refugees

US appeals for 'dignified' return of Rohingya refugees
The US State Department has said it would like to see Myanmar and Bangladesh's Rohingya repatriation plan amid growing concerns about the safety of returning refugees.
2 min read
20 December, 2017
Washington echoed concerns about the current feasibility of returning Rohingya refugees to Myanmar [Anadolu]

The United States has called for a "dignified" and voluntary return of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to Myanmar, while also highlighting the current obstacles to achieving that aim.

Around 625,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh from neighbouring Myanmar's Rakhine state since the Myanmar's military began a crackdown in August.

"In terms of the repatriation plan, we'd like to see the plan. We've heard about it in concept, but one of the things that would be important to be in that plan is the voluntary, safe and dignified return," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters in Washington.

"It has to be voluntary. People have to feel like it's safe to go home. If they don’t feel like it's safe to go home, it’s probably not going to be safe to go home. They have to have a dignified return. That means treating the people well as they decide to return home," she said.

Last month, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a controversial repatriation deal that will see the thousands of displaced Rohingya refugees repatriated to Myanmar.

The deal was blasted by rights groups, who argued that the repatriation would deliver the refugees back into the hands of those who had threatened their lives.

Earlier this week, Human Rights Watch said that satellite imagery has revealed that Rohingya villages continued to be destroyed just days from the repatriation deal.

HRW's analysis of the imagery concluded that as many as 40 Rohingya villages have been destroyed since October, bringing the total number of villages partially or completely destroyed since Myanmar's military began its crackdown in August to 354.

The UN, US and rights groups have accused Myanmar of carrying out a systematic ethnic cleansing campaign against the stateless Muslim minority, with Doctors Without Borders estimating that at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the first month of violence.