By Rabia Iclal Turan
Canada is "deeply concerned" about the proposed repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar this month, an official statement said on Wednesday.
"Canada urges the Government of Myanmar to guarantee the necessary safeguards for and protection of any returning Rohingya refugees," Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in a joint statement.
“UN bodies and international organizations have been clear that conditions for the Rohingya to return to Myanmar are clearly insufficient. The crisis continues. Violence and impunity persist in Rakhine state, and refugees continue to flee the country,” the statement said.
It said "violence and gross human rights abuses continue to be perpetrated" where the Rohingya refugees are trying to be repatriated.
"Ensuring safe freedom of movement, equal rights, access to health and education services and, most importantly, access to citizenship is essential for all Rohingya. Repatriation must not be rushed.
"We continue to call on the Government of Myanmar to grant full and unimpeded access for UN and international organizations, as well as for international observers, to monitor, assess and facilitate any future repatriation efforts," it added.
Repatriation of 2,260 Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar was scheduled to begin on Thursday, but United Nations refugee agency opposed the move.
UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday urged the Bangladesh government to halt plans for the repatriation saying it would put the lives of refugees at stake and violate international law.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."
Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly children, and women, fled Myanmar and crossed into neighboring Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.
The UN has documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.