The UN has called for the voluntary repatriation of thousands of Rohingya refugees that have fled to Bangladesh and also free access to humanitarian aid in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The UN Assistant High Commissioner (Protection), Volker Turk, issued the call on Wednesday as he met with members of the Myanmar government on a two-day visit to Nay Pyi Taw, reports Efe news. During the meetings, Turk urged the government “to ensure a safe environment and the protection of all communities in Rakhine State” and also asked them to provide unrestricted access to allow humanitarian organisations “to provide life-saving aid and build confidence among communities in need”.

Turk also reiterated the refugees’ right to return and asked that they are assured a “safe, voluntary, and sustainable repatriation to their places of origin”. The UN official applauded the Myanmar government’s proposal to hold a joint workshop with the UN Refugee Agency “on the international standards guiding voluntary repatriation” and reiterated its support to the government. According to the UN, at least 603,000 refugees are currently living in camps in Bangladesh after fleeing from the ongoing military operations launched after the attacks against police and military posts in Rakhine by Rohingya insurgents on August 25.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called the military campaign against the Rohingya Muslim minority group, not recognised as citizens in Myanmar, as ethnic cleansing.

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