Press Release

MEDIA ADVISORY: Special Envoy Heyzer urges Regional Framework for Refugee Protection and end to forced returns

25 October 2022

NEW YORK – Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Myanmar Noeleen Heyzer today expressed concern at the recent forced return of Myanmar nationals, including asylum-seekers and people whose lives are in danger after being detained in Yangon, while urging countries in the region to end forced returns and jointly develop a Regional Framework for Refugee Protection.

The Special Envoy also strongly condemned recent attacks including military airstrikes at the weekend that reportedly killed many civilians at a celebration in Kachin State.

During her briefing of the United Nations General Assembly Third Committee, the Special Envoy introduced the Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Myanmar and provided updates on recent events including the worsening violence in Rakhine State. The General Assembly allocates to the Third Committee agenda items relating to social, humanitarian affairs and human rights issues.

“The recent forced return of Myanmar nationals underlines the urgency of a coordinated ASEAN response to address shared regional challenges caused by the conflict,” Special Envoy Heyzer said. “Recognizing that many more people will be forced to flee the violence, I will continue to urge ASEAN to develop a regional framework for refugees and forcefully displaced persons.”

The Special Envoy emphasized that all Myanmar nationals who have been forcibly returned must be treated in accordance with international law and reiterated the Secretary-General’s call for all political prisoners in Myanmar to be released, which the Security Council and General Assembly have also urged.

Ahead of the ASEAN Summit in November, Special Envoy Heyzer called on ASEAN Member States to urgently discuss a Regional Framework for Refugee Protection that respects the principle of non-refoulement, protects human rights and serves the shared interests of countries in the region. The Special Envoy continues to work closely with the ASEAN Special Envoy to engage all stakeholders in an inclusive Myanmar-led process to return to the democratic transition as well as a coordinated response supported by the international community to address the regional implications of the conflict.

As Myanmar’s multidimensional crisis worsens, more than 13.2 million people are food insecure, about 40% of the population live below the poverty line and 1.3 million are internally displaced. Although the worsening violence leaves little room for talks about de-escalation, the Special Envoy highlighted concrete steps to reduce people’s suffering including the regional framework for refugees and forcefully displaced persons, education and skills development to prepare Rohingya refugees for their return to Myanmar, the proposed Inclusive Forum for engagement to facilitate protection and humanitarian assistance, and the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) platform on Myanmar that she has initiated with the Foreign Minister of Indonesia.

Special Envoy Heyzer called for renewed regional and international solidarity with Rohingya refugees and other forcibly displaced people as well as host communities. She emphasized that the Rohingya and other vulnerable communities, including women and youth, must be engaged directly in discussions and decisions about their future.

Greater international support is essential for the Joint Response Plan (JRP) for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis in Bangladesh, which has shouldered a disproportionate burden hosting about 1 million Rohingya refugees. The 2022 JRP is currently only 49% funded.

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Jeremy Walden-Schertz

Media and Communications Officer

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