“These people cannot remain stateless because this statelessness exposes them to discrimination and abuse, as has been the case in the past,’ High Commissioner Filippo Grandi told a press conference Thursday after briefing the UN Security Council on the situation.
More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have so far fled the predominantly-Buddhist Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh since Aug 25, when the crackdown on the Rohingya intensified in Rakhine state.
The Rohingya from Rakhine constitute “probably the most acute” current refugee crisis, he said.
“We have an incomplete visibility of what is happening in Rakhine, but people continue to come [to Bangladesh], so they don’t feel safe there,” Grandi told reporters, also calling for the restoration of humanitarian access and an end to the violence.
Myanmar authorities assert that the military operations — a response to the August attacks — have long since ended. But reports of ongoing violence and the continuing stream of Rohingya across the border have clouded claims of stability and cast doubt on the government’s promise to allow refugees safe return to their homes.
“Of course, for people to go back and for this return to be sustainable, you need to address the very complex issue of citizenship,” Grandi said.
A Muslim minority in mostly Buddhist Myanmar, the Rohingyas are seen by the government as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denied legal status. “I don’t even know if any return will happen in any significant number if that issue is not unblocked,” the commissioner said.
Security, respect for human rights, and progress on resolving the long-standing problem of Rohingya statelessness are essential to creating the conditions for their safe return, Grandi said.