Home SRILANKAN NEWS Rohingya refugees protest closure of UNHCR office in Sri Lanka

Rohingya refugees protest closure of UNHCR office in Sri Lanka

by editorenglish

Scores of Rohingya refugees demonstrated against the planned closure of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Sri Lanka, given the lack of definite solutions to their situation.

We don’t know what will happen when they leave,” one of the refugees, who asked not to be named due to fear of reprisals in a nation that – like others in South Asia – does not recognize the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and Its 1967 Protocol, told EFE.

Fleeing repression in their native Myanmar – where in 2017 the authorities unleashed a wave of violence that has often been described as genocide against the ethnic Muslim minority -, Rohingya refugees have so far been supported by the UN agency in Sri Lanka.

“The UNHCR gave a monthly allowance to cover our food cost, accommodation, clothing, communication, transport, and other essential needs,” said the refugee during the protest in front of the UN body’s main office in Sri Lanka.

Shouting slogans such as “We want justice” and “No more refugee life,” the protesters underlined their fear that UNHCR’s departure will close the doors to a durable solution, such as repatriation or relocation in another country.

Abubakr, another demonstrator – who identifies with just his first name -, told EFE that they are demanding one of three solutions.

“One is to discuss with the Myanmar government and repatriate us, the other is for the Sri Lankan government to give us citizenship, and lastly to send us to a Western country so that we can start our lives there,” he said.

The 27-year-old stressed that he has been a refugee all his life, as his family fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh in 1992.

A UNHCR official, who requested anonymity, confirmed to EFE that the office in Colombo was to be closed, but did not give a specific date. The decision has also been criticized by human rights experts.

“The UNHCR should have an exit plan. Right now, there’s no proper plan and no solution provided to the refugees,” human rights lawyer Suren D. Perera told EFE.

Bangladesh currently hosts nearly one million members of this Bengali speaking persecuted minority, while more Rohingyas continue to flee Myanmar as well as Bangladesh by sea in precarious boats.

In 2022, Sri Lanka rescued more than a hundred Rohingyas who were adrift on one of these boats, joining the nearly 800 refugees of different nationalities recognized by UNHCR in the island nation.

Courtesy: Colombo Gazette

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