UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has met with Rohingya community members during a tour of their camps in Bangladesh and said they had expressed hope that they would be able to go back to their homes.
UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has said it remains unsafe for Rohingya refugees to return to their homes in Myanmar, nearly five years after a crackdown there sparked an exodus to neighbouring Bangladesh.
Nearly a million members of the mostly Muslim minority now live in a sprawling and squalid patchwork of refugee settlements near Bangladesh's southern coast.
Bachelet met with Rohingya community members during a tour of the camps on Tuesday and said they had expressed "resounding hope" that they would be able to go back to their homes.
"Unfortunately the current situation across the border means that the conditions are not right for returns," Bachelet told reporters in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka on Wednesday.
"Repatriation must always be conducted in a voluntary and dignified manner, only when safe and sustainable conditions exist in Myanmar."
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told Bachelet that Rohingya refugees living in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh must return home to Myanmar.
“The Rohingya are nationals of Myanmar and they have to be taken back,” Hasina was quoted as saying by her press secretary, Ihsanul Karim on Wednesday.
Most of the refugees fled their homes after a 2017 Myanmar army offensive that is now subject to a landmark genocide case at the UN's top court.
Five years on, the refugees refuse to go back without guarantees for their safety and rights in Myanmar, which is now ruled by a military junta after the ouster of its civilian government last year.
Human rights concerns
Bachelet said many refugees were fearful for their safety due to the activity of armed groups and criminal gangs.
She was on a four-day visit to Bangladesh before her term as UN high commissioner for human rights ends later this month.
While touring the camps on Tuesday, she urged the international community to continue to support the Rohingya despite heightened global focus on more recent crises.
She added that the Russian offensive against Ukraine was being keenly felt among the Rohingya, with global food prices soaring and driving up the costs of supporting a population dependent on humanitarian aid.
"I would insist that the international community don't abandon the Rohingyas and continue supporting and even looking at if they can scale up and support, because of the consequences of the war," she said.
Bachelet is the first UN rights chief to visit Bangladesh and her trip included meetings with local activists to discuss accusations of gross abuses by security forces, including extrajudicial killings.
Campaigners say the country's security forces have killed thousands of people in staged shootouts, while hundreds of others have disappeared.
"I raised my deep concern about these serious allegations with government ministers and highlighted the need for an impartial, independent and transparent investigation into these allegations," Bachelet told reporters.