The Myanmar government appears committed to starting a repatriation programme but it is still in its early stages, the US State Department said.
The department’s Population, Refugees and Migration Bureau chief and Acting Assistant Secretary Simon Henshaw spoke to the media on the matter on Tuesday following a visit of a US delegation to Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Henshaw said that the US wants the programme to not only create safe conditions for the willing return of refugees, but also the restoration of homes and villages where they were burned and a political reconciliation between the groups.
The US urges Myanmar to restore the rule of law, protect local populations, investigate alleged human rights abuses and violations, and to hold those responsible accountable, he said.
The US is also calling for the implementation of the Kofi Annan commission’s recommendations, which include Myanmar citizenship for Rohingyas, Henshaw said.
The official also praised the response of international organisation and Bangladesh to the crisis.
“I want to underline our appreciation for the generosity and commitment from the Government of and people of Bangladesh and our humanitarian partners, including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, the Organization for Migration, the UN World Food Programme, and the United Nations Children’s Fund, who are all working together to provide emergency assistance to these individuals,” he said.
But the situation requires a lot more work, he added. The media and NGOs still do not have full access to areas in Myanmar.
Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert, who had joined the US delegation on the last leg of the trip, also spoke briefly during the press conference. She emphasised the scope and scale of the crisis and expressed her deep appreciation for the work NGOs and the Bangladesh government is doing to help the Rohingyas.
“But I just wanted to – you all know this as journalists from having been in the field and seen these things firsthand, but how important it was to have seen what those people are going through and then have had the chance to hear from the Government of Bangladesh about the importance that they put themselves on taking care of their neighbours,” she said,
“And they really have done that; they have opened their hearts; they have opened their wallets and allowed – imagine that, 600,000, more than 600,000 to cross their borders, putting them in camps. It’s not where these people want to be, of course, in their camps. They’d rather be home, but at least they’re safe for now.”