More than 720,000 Rohingya fled a sweeping army crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state in 2017, according to UN agencies. (Photo: DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images).

The UN refugee agency has sought clarification from India over its decision to repatriate a group of Rohingya to Myanmar. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has voiced concerns over the unconducive conditions for such returns.

In a press briefing on Friday (4), Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesperson for the secretary-general, said the UNHCR “regrets India’s decision to repatriate a family of Rohingya asylum seekers to Myanmar, the second such return in three months.”

“UNHCR continues to request access and seek clarification on the circumstances under which the return has taken place,” the agency added.

In October 2018, India had returned seven Rohingya men to Rakhine State in Myanmar and on Thursday (3), a family of Rohingya asylum-seekers from Rakhine state were sent back after being detained in Assam.  There is an estimated 18,000 Rohingya refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in India.

Responding to a question on the Rohingya being returned to Myanmar, Haq said the UN wants to ensure the return was voluntary.

“And UNHCR was not able to assess the voluntary nature of that return, and so they are very concerned about this,” he said.

In October 2018, UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres has said India can do a great deal to hold those involved in violence against Rohingyas accountable by using its influence in Myanmar to bring about reconciliation.

“What can India do? Support Bangladesh in helping these people because there is a huge humanitarian problem. Second, to put pressure on Myanmar, the military in Myanmar for reconciliation and create conditions for these people to go back. These people will not go back in present circumstances,” he said.