Ask refugees the world over what they want, and many will quickly reply they just wish to return home.
Of course, home is not meant as the burning, miserable place they fled violence and certain death. But rather, it's a period of time where they could live their lives in peace.
This realization is heard in the sad sigh from Syria's refugees wondering what may remain years after they left. Or those living in Kenya, born in Dadaab refugee camp, whose homeland Somalia is a story told by others.
Over the past three months, violence in Myanmar has uprooted thousands of people who have crossed the country's border in search of asylum. Such a surge would test the capacity of any state, let alone Bangladesh, which already has high levels of poverty.
So it was greeted as a positive development that the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar had come to an agreement to allow those who have fled to soon return.
Globally, the average refugee can spend more than two decades in exile. The reasons vary by circumstance but are united by the fact that too often there is no simple solution that will allow people to return home.
In some situations, such as that of Bhutanese refugees in the 1990s, their country of origin was adamant they did not have the right to return. Meanwhile, ongoing violence in their homeland continues to prevent Afghan, Syrian, and South Sudanese refugees from heading back. Books have filled shelves about Palestinian refugees and the challenges of their situation.
The new agreement reached between Bangladesh and Myanmar is indeed a big step forward towards more durable solutions. However, the danger lies in the details of a hasty return. Given the extreme levels of violence refugees have experienced, returning in the near future will be extremely challenging. Families remain traumatized. Many of their villages are now ash.
While the desire remains for a swift end to this crisis, the reality is that these people will continue to need safe haven. The international community, including Canada, must also do what it can to help.
This article originally appeared in The Globe and Mail.