May 27, 2008 / 1:27 PM / 12 years ago

UNHCR urges Dhaka to talk with Myanmar on refugees

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh should revive talks with Myanmar for repatriation of thousands of Muslims languishing in camps along the border for 16 years, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres shakes hands with child refugees at the Kutupalong camp in Cox's Bazar May 26, 2008. Bangladesh should revive talks with Myanmar for repatriation of thousands of Muslims languishing in camps along the border for 16 years, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Nurul Islam

The UNHCR was trying to revive a three-way dialogue involving Myanmar, Bangladesh and the agency to settle the fate of the refugees, known as Rohingyas, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said.

“It is our objective to re-establish a trilateral mechanism among Bangladesh, Myanmar and UNHCR for repatriation of the refugees to Myanmar,” he told reporters.

“Enhanced cooperation that now exists between Myanmar and the international community will create opportunities in the future, hopefully for more meaningful dialogue,” he told a news conference, following his meeting with foreign ministry officials in Dhaka.

Bangladesh, which has sheltered nearly 27,000 Rohingyas in two camps, said it would make fresh efforts for their repatriation.

“We will be working with Myanmar and UNHCR on this,” Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, foreign affairs adviser to the country’s army-backed interim government.

Myanmar has repeatedly said it was trying to resume the process to take back the refugees, but it hasn’t yet started the process, Bangladesh officials say.

Around 250,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar border region in early 1992, alleging persecution by the military in Myanmar’s western Rakhaine state, which borders Bangladesh.

Most were repatriated under the supervision of the UNHCR before the process came to a halt in July 2005, with the remaining refugees unwilling to go back and the U.N. body against using pressure.

Cox’s Bazar officials said thousands of Rohingyas, men, women and children, also live outside the two officially run camps at Kutupalong and Nayapara.

Guterres arrived in Bangladesh on Monday on a two-day visit aimed at find a solution for the refugee problem. He visited the Kutupalong camp on Monday and also met Bangladesh government head Fakhruddin Ahmed.

Poor and overcrowded Bangladesh has said it could not provide the Rohingyas a home or grant them citizenship.

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