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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

UN chief in Bangladesh to discuss assistance for Rohingya refugees

Antonio Guterres and other officials including the World Bank chief will meet Bangladesh PM and visit camp

International Committee of the Red Cross President Peter Maurer visits Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar, Bangadesh, on July 1, 2018, as the UN chief Antonio Guterres arrived in the country to discuss assistance for the refugees. Rishi Lekhi / AP Photo
International Committee of the Red Cross President Peter Maurer visits Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar, Bangadesh, on July 1, 2018, as the UN chief Antonio Guterres arrived in the country to discuss assistance for the refugees. Rishi Lekhi / AP Photo

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres arrived in Bangladesh on Sunday with World Bank President Jim Yong-kim to assess needs for dealing with hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar, leading to a humanitarian crisis.

The two-day visit will "highlight the generosity of Bangladesh in hosting the largest refugee influx of 2017 and the need of the international community to do more", the UN said.

From August to December, more than 700,000 ethnic Rohingya, a Muslim minority, fled an offensive by Myanmar troops in Rakhine state in reprisal for attacks on border posts by Rohingya rebels.

The UN said the visit would "lay the groundwork for further dialogue" with Bangladesh on medium-term planning for the refugees and on the need for "comprehensive solutions" to their plight.

In Dhaka, Mr Guterres and the World Bank chief will meet with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other officials.

On Monday, they will visit refugees and aid workers at the Cox's Bazar encampment on the south-east coast.

The delegation includes UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and Natalia Kanem, executive director of the UN Population Fund.

They will study prospects for "a safe, voluntary and dignified return" of refugees to Myanmar, the UN said.

The UN previously said conditions in Rakhine were not conducive for a safe repatriation, but signed an agreement with Myanmar to assess conditions to help refugees make an informed decision.

Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed in November to start repatriating the Rohingya but the process has stalled, with both sides accusing the other of frustrating the effort.

A receiving camp for Rohingya refugees returning to Myanmar, in Maungdaw, Rakhine state. Phyo Hein Kyaw / AFP
A receiving camp for Rohingya refugees returning to Myanmar, in Maungdaw, Rakhine state. Phyo Hein Kyaw / AFP

The UN has demanded an end to the Myanmar military operations, unfettered access to the western Myanmar region from which the refugees fled, and a peaceful and organised return of the Rohingya to their home region in the Buddhist country.

However, conditions are still not right for the refugees to return in safety, the head of the Red Cross said on Sunday as he visited refugee camps in Bangladesh after a tour of western Myanmar.

Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said a lot more was needed to improve the situation he witnessed in Rakhine during an official visit in the past few days.

"What I've seen in terms of destruction of villages, abandonment of situations, disruptions in markets, of livelihood, of communities, I don't think the present moment is an ideal condition to return," Mr Maurer said in an interview in Chakmarkul refugee camp.

He said more was needed for those families eking out survival in gigantic tent cities in Bangladesh, where many would rather endure hardship than return to persecution.

"We need to prepare the ground for returns for those who wish to return," Mr Maurer said.

The UN Security Council visited Myanmar and Rakhine state in early May, meeting with refugees who gave detailed accounts of killings, rape and the torching of villages at the hands of Myanmar's military.

Myanmar has denied allegations of ethnic cleansing by the United States, the UN and others.

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Read more:

Eman's story: Fleeing violence, Rohingya find scant respite in Bangladesh

Myanmar sacks top general implicated in Rohingya crackdown

WATCH:The global refugee crisis

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