UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday urged the Government of Bangladesh to halt plans for
the repatriation of more than 2,200 Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, warning that the returns would be in violation of
international law and put their lives and freedom at serious risk.
The refugees in Cox’s Bazar are the victims of human rights violations committed in the midst of the violence that
erupted in August 2017, which led to the flight of more than 725,000 people. Many witnessed the killings of members of
their families and the burning down of their homes and villages. Refugees have stated repeatedly that they do not wish
to return under current conditions. Several of the refugee families apparently listed for return are headed by women or
The Office also continues to receive reports of ongoing violations of the rights of Rohingya remaining in northern
Rakhine, which include allegations of killings, disappearances and arbitrary arrests, as well as widespread restrictions
on the rights to freedom of movement, health and education. About 130,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), many of
whom are Rohingya, remain in camps in central Rakhine. Another 5,000 IDPs remain in No Man’s Land between Myanmar and
Bangladesh while more than 4,000 are in Aung Mingalar ward in Sittwe, where they are subjected to a wide range of
restrictions. Hundreds of thousands of people in other parts of Rakhine also remain deprived of their rights to freedom
of movement, to basic services and livelihood – as well as their right to a nationality.
Some of the refugees have threatened suicide if they are forced to repatriate, and two elderly men in Cox’s Bazar have
already attempted suicide.
“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,” High Commissioner Bachelet said. “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.”
“The human rights violations committed against the Rohingya in Myanmar amount to the worst atrocities, including crimes
against humanity and possibly even genocide. 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.”
Bachelet called on the Government of Myanmar to show its seriousness in creating the conditions for return by addressing
the root causes of the crisis in Rakhine state, in particular the systematic discrimination against and persecution of
High Commissioner Bachelet appealed to the Government of Bangladesh to ensure scrupulously that any repatriation takes
place in line with international standards of voluntariness, safety and dignity, with full transparency, and only when
the conditions are right.
“The history of the Rohingya in Myanmar is one filled with repeated episodes of violence, flight and return,” Bachelet
said. “We need to speak with one voice to stop this cycle from repeating itself yet again.”