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Politics

UN ready to help Myanmar process Rohingya citizenship

High Commissioner says crisis is worst since Balkan War and Rwanda

Rohingya refugees walk towards a refugee camp after crossing the border in Anjuman Para near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, November 19, 2017   © Reuters

TOKYO -- The United Nations refugee agency will provide technical assistance to the Myanmar government if it begins to process and verify citizenship for Rohingya to resolve the humanitarain crisis, the body's top official said on Monday.

United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi says the Rohingya emergency is the worst humanitarian crisis since the 1990s.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi described the Rohingya refugee crisis as the worst since the end of the Cold War and compared it to the ethnic cleansing during the Balkan War and the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s.

"Violence has to be completely stopped and the problem of their citizenship has to be resolved," Grandi told a press conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo. He said that the number of refugees from Myanmar's Rakhine State to Bangladesh has exceeded 600,000 since the end of August.

He said: "We are aware that the talks are happening between Bangladesh and Myanmar to discuss the solution of future repatriation." He added that the Myanmar government contacted an UNHCR office in Yangon to say it wanted to open talks about the repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar. 

He offered to be an adviser for both countries to help organize the repatriation procedure. He said the Myanmar government had an intention to verify citizenship of Rohingya refugees but was held back by the fact that many of them were undocumented. But he said the agency, with its vast experience in such matters, would be able to support the government in confirming information including where applicants had lived in the past.

He said: "We are also helping the government of Bangladesh to register Rohingya [who had] arrived from Myanmar." He said that if Rohingya were registered as having come from Myammar, then they would at the very least have this document to prove their identity. He said that this form of registration in Bangladesh was "going well."

Grandi referred to three elements to support his view that the situation was at the worst since the 1990s: the sheer number of refugees in just a few months, the shocking violence that caused Rohingya to flee especially that inflicted on women and children, and the vast humanitarian needs in Bangladesh as a result.

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