But human rights groups claim more time is needed to ensure the rights of the Rohingya are protected in Myanmar, where the minority have been denied citizenship, freedom of movement and access to services.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said this is the responsibility of the government of Myanmar, "but worldwide engagement and support are key to making it happen".
She started her speech to the Security Council by recounting how a Rohingya refugee in Bangladesh, Noor Kadir, told AP about surviving an attack by soldiers on 14 friends trying to choose sides for a local soccer-like game in the village of Gu Dar Pyin in Myanmar's Rakhine state. Survivors reported that more than 200 soldiers descended on the village, shooting and burning homes, she said.
It is about time the global community put pressure on Myanmar to safely repatriate the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who have fled across the border into Bangladesh. The meeting came almost three months after the council adopted a statement demanding that Myanmar rein in its security forces and allow the Rohingya to voluntarily return. "The causes of their flight have not been addressed, and we have yet to see substantive progress on addressing the exclusion and denial of rights that has deepened over the last decades, rooted in their lack of citizenship".
Grandi welcomed the agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar on the voluntary return of refugees but said "the framework for return" should eventually be defined in a three-way agreement between the two governments and his office. Doctors Without Borders estimates at least 6,700 Rohingya died in the first month of the violence that sparked the outpouring of refugees.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the meeting, French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre reaffirmed the need to fully mobilize the council and suggested that the meeting itself was meant to "increase the pressure" to ensure implementation of the council's November 6 presidential statement.
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"The voluntary return of the forcibly displaced people can only take place under the assurance of non-criminalization, non-discrimination and sustainable resettlement and reintegration", he said.
The world needs to be tough with Myanmar for repatriation to be a realistic goal.
More immediately, Grandi said tens of thousands of Rohingyas in Bangladesh need to be urgently relocated because of the upcoming monsoon rains.
"Their lives are at grave risk". "The Bangladeshi Government is steering a massive emergency preparedness effort, but worldwide support must be stepped up to avert a catastrophe", he said, stressing, "as we have repeatedly said, resolving this crisis means finding solutions inside Myanmar".
Second, the United Nations does not have sufficient access to make a meaningful assessment of the humanitarian or human rights situation in Rakhine.
Senior UN officials and delegates from other western countries also demanded the reporters' release.