THE plight of nearly one million Rohingya refugees remains in limbo, a year since they were forced to flee their homeland in Rakhine State, Myanmar, as a result of ethnic violence (News, 8 September 2017).
Most are now living in what has become the biggest refugee camp in the world, at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, where heavy monsoon rain is threatening their makeshift shelters with landslides and flooding (News, 4 May).
The Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Rushanara Ali, who has visited Cox’s Bazar, said that the camp was now the fourth biggest city in Bangladesh. “The world must not forget the plight of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh,” she warned.
She said that only one third of the UN appeal for funding for the refugees has been met.
Charities and NGOs warn that conditions faced by the refugees will only get worse as the monsoon season continues until October. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, urged governments in the Asia-Pacific region to do more to help the Muslim minority Rohingya people.
“I urge you to consider what support your governments could pledge in solidarity with Bangladesh until solutions are found for refugees,” he said, addressing ministers of 26 countries gathered in Bali, Indonesia. “We need also to work towards comprehensive solutions for the people of Rakhine State, so that they are not forced to move in the first place.”
He called for help with the building of hospitals to treat refugees, as well as financial support for Bangladesh.
The executive director of the Roman Catholic charity Caritas Bangladesh, the Most Revd Dr Gervas Rozario, added his voice to calls for more to be done by the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar.
“Though bilateral talks between the Myanmar and Bangladesh governments have ended in ‘positive commitments’ to find solutions, politicians return to their respective countries and there is next to no follow-through. People live precariously on the hillsides around Cox’s Bazar, wondering what their fate is to be.
“The Myanmar and Bangladeshi Catholic Bishops are doing all they can to bring about sincere and honest solutions to the crisis. We know all too well how hard that is: it is a matter of keeping windows open and keeping hope alive. Hope is a small word that carries great responsibility.
“This crisis is complex, with ramifications beyond our immediate emergency response. If the protocols and principles of a safe and dignified return are agreed, for example, and Rohingya families choose to go, will there be education and health services? Will their homes be rebuilt? And what about the many children born in Bangladesh — what will be their status?”
He said that the crisis was likely to continue for several more years unless a political solution was found quickly.