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On 9 September 2017, a woman holding a child rests by the side of the road near the Makeshift Settlement for Rohingya refugees in Ukhiya, a sub-district of Cox's Bazar District, Bangladesh.
Patrick Brown/UNICEF
Citizenship

UN Lays Groundwork for Rohingya Refugees to Return Home

Myanmar reached an agreement with the United Nations Thursday that may lead to the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees, according to the UN.

The first part of the deal calls for UN aid workers to visit Rakhine state in western Myanmar to determine if conditions are safe for a mass return. They will also work with local officials to ensure that adequate services like running water and law enforcement are in place before people return.

Refugees will then be allowed to decide if they want to return. Having the UN deeply involved in the process may allay doubts about the viability of their former homes.

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The UN also called for a clear pathway to citizenship to be developed for Rohingya, who have historically been marginalized, denied basic rights, and subjected to violence in the country.

This oppression reached unprecedented heights last August, when 700,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine state after the Myanmar military began what UN officials have called a genocide.

Refugees found temporary safety in neighboring Bangladesh, but many are living in unsafe camps that are extremely prone to flooding and landslides as the monsoon season approaches.

The camps have also experienced severe cholera episodes and children have largely been deprived of a satisfactory education.  

Further, the Bangladeshi government doesn’t want the Rohingya to permanently reside in the country and has refused to allow refugees to build long-term structures, making them especially vulnerable to extreme weather, according to CNN.

Read More: After Genocide: What Happens Next for the Rohingya Refugees?

The repatriation scheme is unlikely to lead to immediate resettlements, but the announcement marks a breakthrough for the UN, which has been calling on Myanmar to allow Rohingya to return for the past year.

The UN has contested previous repatriation effort claims by Myanmar, leading the organization to question if they even took place.

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