December 15, 2018
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UNHCR says Rohingya repatriation process yet to take off

Kutupalong, Bangladesh, Dec 6 (efe-epa).- A bilateral agreement signed by Dhaka and Naypyidaw over the repatriation of the Muslim minority Rohingyas, hundreds of thousands of whom had fled to Bangladesh over the last three months following a military offensive by the Myanmar army, is yet to take off on the ground, an official from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told EFE on Wednesday.

According to the agreement, signed on Nov. 23, the repatriation process should begin within two months.

"Nothing is going on at this stage," Mohammed Abu Asaker, the UNHCR Senior Regional Public Information Officer, told EFE.

According to the UNHCR, which is not directly involved in the process but have been discussing the issue with both governments, however, the process might be stalled owing to Myanmar's precondition that the refugees will be repatriated only after due verification of their documents.

He stressed that the return of around 626,000 refugees - many of whom have either lost or have no valid identification papers - currently living in Bangladesh should be voluntary, safe and sustainable.

"Conditions in Myanmar are not yet conducive for the return (of Rohingyas)," he said.

More than 100 days after the crisis had erupted, the Myanmar army are still razing Rohingya villages, refugees in Bangladesh have alleged.

The Rohingyas - who are denied citizenship by Myanmar - continue to flee the country, with hundreds of new arrivals recorded in Bangladesh every day.

The Myanmar army have repeatedly denied that its offensive in Rakhine in western Myanmar, that began on Aug. 25, following a series of attacks by Rohingya rebels against multiple government posts in the region, had targeted civilians.

However, the UNHCR, the United States and various other human rights organizations have described the offensive as ethnic cleansing.

On Tuesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid bin Ra'ad, had said the repression of the Rohingyas by the Myanmar army had all the characteristics of a genocide.

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