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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Freedom of movement key for refugees: envoy


Nyan Lynn Aung | 31 JAN 2019


Freedom of movement is important to rebuild trust in Rakhine State, Christine Schraner Burgener, the United Nations’ special envoy on human rights in Myanmar, said in a statement at the end of her 12-day visit to Myanmar yesterday.

“Freedom of movement is crucial for all people and their access to livelihoods. Without freedom of movement, children cannot go to local schools, and people still cannot access hospitals. It is important to rebuild trust,” Burgener said.

The statement said the UN envoy focused on the obstacles and potential solutions for freedom of movement, which has affected many people in Rakhine. 

The statement added that Burgener was not denied access to northern Rakhine by the government because she was not scheduled to visit conflict zones. 

It said the main focus of her visit was to spend time with the people affected by restrictions on freedom of movement in and around the state capital of Sittwe. 

During her meeting with the Arakan National Party, which dominates the state parliament, Burgener stressed the importance of dialogue. 

“Dialogue will make Myanmar stronger,” she told leaders of the party, encouraging them to publicly stand against discrimination and hate speech, and to embrace Myanmar’s diversity as an asset rather than a weakness. 

The statement said Burgener is hopeful that Myanmar and Bangladesh can strengthen cooperation on the repatriation of more than 700,000 northern Rakhine refugees now stuck in makeshift camps on the Bangladesh border.

Burgener said she will visit Dhaka in February.

U Mya Than, deputy speaker of Rakhine’s parliament, who met with Burgener, said they discussed the security situation and humanitarian access.

“We have explained that it’s difficult to allow anyone freedom of movement who has not applied for a national verification card (NVC),” he said.

U Thant Zin, an immigration officer in Maungdaw township, said all refugees must apply for NVCs if they want to travel freely.

“The cards are only for people living in Myanmar. It is the first step toward citizenship,” he said.

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