The United Nations human rights office (OHCHR) and the Organization’s refugee agency (UNHCR) have called on Myanmar’s neighbouring countries to offer refuge and protection to all those fleeing violence and persecution as the crisis in Myanmar enters its third month.
In addition to the political strife across the country, renewed fighting between Myanmar’s military and ethnic armed organizations in some border areas, including airstrikes in Kayin province, are driving people to flee within the country and across borders.
The people being forced to flee from #Myanmar should be given sanctuary in neighboring countries.
They must not be returned to a place where their lives or freedom may be at risk.
This principle of non-refoulement is a cornerstone of international law + is binding on all states. pic.twitter.com/YGF4ThGrOG
— UNHCR Asia Pacific (@UNHCRAsia) April 1, 2021
“Children, women and men fleeing for their lives should be given sanctuary. They must not be returned to a place where their lives or freedom may be at risk. This principle of non-refoulement is a cornerstone of international law and is binding on all states”, she said.
Night raids, killings ‘daily occurrences’
The situation across Myanmar has deteriorated rapidly since the military takeover. According to OHCHR, at least 510 peaceful protesters have been killed by the security forces, and over 2,600 are in detentions, including many held incommunicado or forcibly disappeared.
“Night raids, mass arrests and killings have become daily occurrences throughout the country”, the OHCHR South-East Asia Regional Office said in a news release on Thursday.
“De facto military authorities have increasingly resorted to heavy weaponry such as rocket-propelled and fragmentation grenades, heavy machine guns, and snipers to kill demonstrators in massive numbers”, it added.
The crackdown has also claimed the lives of at least 35 children and left countless more with serious injuries. Millions have also been directly or indirectly exposed to traumatizing scenes of violence, threatening their mental health and emotional wellbeing, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said earlier this week.
‘Stand in solidarity’ with people of Myanmar
OHCHR also said that it received reports that some individuals, who fled Myanmar in search of safety in the region have been forced to return to the country.
Cynthia Veliko, South-East Regional Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights underscored that “no one should face the risk of being returned to Myanmar when their lives, safety or fundamental human rights are threatened”.
“In light of binding obligations under international refugee and human rights law, we call on all countries to ensure that all those seeking asylum are able to access the protection to which they are entitled under international law”, she added.
“Now is the time for us to stand in solidarity with the people of Myanmar.”
States in the region should also ensure effective search and rescue, and refrain from intercepting or pushing back those who are trying to access sea or land routes to reach safety, the UN human rights office added.
‘History of providing protection’
UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner Triggs also highlighted that Myanmar’s neighbours have a “decades-long history” of providing protection and assistance to refugees.
“As the situation in Myanmar deteriorates further, we call on states to continue their lifesaving humanitarian tradition of safeguarding the lives of all those forced to flee”, she urged.