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Concern Worldwide has cautiously welcomed today’s agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh - but warned that the future of the Rohingya people remains "very uncertain".
The breakthrough would see 620,000 Rohingya refugees returned to Rakhine State, months after they fled from widespread violence.
The pact was signed by Myanmar's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the Bangladeshi foreign minister, Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, and commits to starting the repatriation within two months.
Brid Kennedy, Concern's Regional Director, said that the agreement was a move in the right direction but added that many of those who recently arrived in Bangladesh would still be “hugely reluctant” to return to Myanmar.
“While we would obviously welcome the signing of the agreement, which will see a working group set up in the next three weeks, we do not seem to be any closer to an outcome that will see a secure future for the Rohingya people. They are still considered stateless in Myanmar and every single one of the refugees is traumatised from the violence that they have witnessed and endured in Rakhine State.
“They’ve lost their homes, they’ve lost their livelihoods and they’ve lost their loved ones so the majority of the Rohingya people that we have spoken to would be hugely reluctant to return. The main thing that we need to see is a guaranteed safe return for these people who have been through so much.”
Kennedy also praised Bangladesh for its response to the crisis, highlighting that the influx of refugees had placed additional demands on the country.
“Despite its own high levels of poverty and the massive floods earlier this year, Bangladesh has shown great hospitality in accommodating the Rohingya people. They will want to help the refugees to return home as soon as possible so we are hopeful that a solution can be found that will enable the Rohingya people to live in peace when they do return.
"Meanwhile, resources need to be urgently made available to ensure that the Rohingya refugees get sufficient protection, shelter, food, water and sanitation in Bangladesh," she added.
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