DUBLIN, Ireland – Ireland has grave concerns over the fate of Rohingya refugees in Myanmar.
Speaking in the Dail this week, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, in response to a question said he was gravely concerned over what was happening in Myanmar and the plight of the refugees.
Coveney said that since the army crackdown in Rakhine State in August last year, around 720,000 refugees, mostly Rohingya, have fled to Bangladesh.
"The people and government of Bangladesh have demonstrated extraordinary generosity in receiving such a large influx of refugees in very difficult circumstances," he said. "I remain very concerned at the ongoing situation in Myanmar and the plight of these refugees, who are living in extremely precarious conditions in overcrowded refugee camps."
Coveney conceded the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Myanmar and Bangladesh, and Myanmar and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on the repatriation of the Rohingya, have been "important first steps on this path of return."
But he said the current conditions on the ground in Myanmar are not conducive for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya.
"In that regard, I am concerned by the recent arrangement between Myanmar and Bangladesh to begin the return of up to 5,000 refugees in the near future. I note the concerns expressed by UNHCR, who are on the ground, and the fact that UN agencies have not been included in these discussions. I also note concerning reports that many of the refugees concerned do not wish to be repatriated, given conditions on the ground in Rakhine state," he said.
"Therefore, I call on Myanmar and Bangladesh to reconsider this arrangement and to take the necessary steps to create such conditions before taking any further or premature steps towards repatriation."
Coveney also asked the parties to undertake further dialogue with international partners and allow the refugees to play a key role in determining their future.