Christian Aid has said that any return of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh should take place on a voluntary basis and only when it is safe to do so.
Over 700,000 people are living in refugee camps in Bangladesh after fleeing from the Rakhine area of Myanmar following a brutal military crackdown that started in August last year.
Christian Aid runs two of the camps, currently sheltering 85,000 people.
Bangladesh reached a deal with Myanmar several weeks ago to start repatriating the refugees but the decision has been heavily criticised by aid agencies who fear that the conditions are still unsafe.
Christian Aid’s country manager for Bangladesh, Shakeb Nabi, told the Church Times that the Myanmar government must first provide the Rohingya people with ‘the right conditions to return’ before any repatriation begins.
‘So far, the repatriatiation has not been successful, and the Rohingya people need to go and see where they will be living to make sure it is correct,’ he said.
‘Bangladesh has deep solidarity with the people of Myanmar, but the Rohingya need to be given a safe, dignified, and voluntary repatriation.’
Catholic development agency CAFOD has also criticised forced repatriation of the Rohingya refugees.
It also said that any return must be on a voluntary basis and ‘when there are firm guarantees for the safety, rights, and livelihoods of those who return’.
‘Currently, there are still people fleeing Myanmar, albeit in smaller numbers, and arriving in Bangladesh, and no refugee who is still in fear of their life should be required to return,’ said CAFOD.