UN urges Myanmar's neighbours to stop forced returns

Demonstrators hold placards with pictures of Aung San Suu Kyi as they protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, in February 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA - The United Nations on Thursday urged Myanmar’s neighbours to stop the forced return of its nationals, saying “countless lives” were being placed at risk.

The UN’s refugee agency UNHCR said it was gravely concerned about multiple reports of refoulement – the forcible return of refugees and asylum seekers – since February 2021 from countries neighbouring Myanmar.

The agency is “urgently appealing to countries in the region to immediately stop forced returns of Myanmar nationals seeking safety from serious harm”.

“We repeat our call on states to continue offering protection to Myanmar nationals fleeing for safety. This also includes ending the practice of indefinite detention of asylum seekers and refugees from Myanmar,” said Ms Gillian Triggs, UNHCR’s assistant high commissioner for protection.

The south-east Asian nation has been in turmoil since a military coup last year, with swathes of the country engulfed by fighting.

More than 2,300 people have been killed in the military’s crackdown on dissent since the coup, which rights groups say includes razing villages, mass extrajudicial killings and air strikes on civilians.

The junta blames anti-coup fighters for the deaths of almost 3,900 civilians.

Ms Triggs said the violence was driving people to flee and that they should be allowed to seek asylum abroad and be protected against refoulement. AFP

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