Wrapping up a five-day mission to Bangladesh, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees appealed on Wednesday for sustained and predictable support for Rohingya refugees and their host communities.
“The world must remember the crisis that Rohingya refugees and their hosts have been facing for the last five years,” Filippo Grandi said after visiting refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar and Bhasan Char island, in the Bay of Bengal.
Bangladesh hosts some one million Rohingya refugees, most of whom fled from Myanmar in 2017.
Today was spent with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh: I am grateful to the government and its UN and NGO partners for the big relief efforts; mindful of the refugees’ wish to return to Myanmar if their rights and security are assured; and hopeful that donors will stay engaged. pic.twitter.com/btVDoHd41G
— Filippo Grandi (@FilippoGrandi) May 22, 2022
Mr. Grandi lauded the Bangladesh Government’s leadership in making important strides in refugee response, including the provision of COVID-19 vaccinations for more than 88 per cent of the population, aged 18 and over.
“Bangladesh, which has led in assisting nearly a million refugees, remains a priority partner for UNHCR, but continued international support is crucial to provide life-saving assistance and build hope,” he stressed.
Noting that refugee lives depend on “how the international community responds in caring for them,” the High Commissioner reminded that international support was vital, “including flexible funding to protect Rohingya refugees until they can safely return home.”
In meeting with national leaders, UNHCR donors and humanitarian actors, he also emphasized the need to maintain refugees’ hopes for voluntary return to Myanmar, as the situation allows.
“The world must work to address the root causes of their flight and to translate those dreams into reality,” said the High Commissioner.
Hope of return
According to Mr. Grandi, the solutions lie within Myanmar.
“The Rohingya refugees I met reiterated their desire to return home when conditions allow”, he said.
Meanwhile, under a tripartite agreement maintained with the military leadership, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and UN Development Programme (UNDP) continue to work on community projects in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
He explained however, that those initiatives must be scaled up and better supported, to create conditions for voluntary returns in a just, safe, and sustainable manner.
Safety, dignity, and education
In the meantime, Bangladesh has offered a welcoming interim home to those on the move – some 52 per cent of whom are under 18.
As such, the UNHCR chief maintained the importance of enabling Rohingya parents to send their children to school and study according to the Myanmar curriculum, which is being rolled out in the refugee camps.
“Skills development and livelihood activities in Cox’s Bazar and on Bhasan Char are extremely important in allowing refugees to build peaceful communities, contribute to a safe environment and support their sustainable return.”
The Bangladesh Government has relocated some 28,000 Rohingya refugees to the offshore island of Bhasan Char, where it has scaled up essential humanitarian services.
He called for continued strong management of conditions on the island, enhanced education services, skills development and livelihood initiatives.
Humanitarian agencies need more than $881 million this year to support approximately 1.4 million people, including 920,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar and Bhasan Char, and around 540,000 Bangladeshis “in neighbouring communities.”
As of this month, the Joint Response Plan is only 13 per cent funded.