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UNHCR woos global support for Rohingya return

Published : 23 Aug 2022 10:28 PM

UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo has said the support from the international community is crucial in delivering lifesaving protection and assistance services for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

“Together, the international community must do more to ensure that the Rohingya do not continue to languish in displacement and redouble efforts for increased politicaldialogue and diplomatic engagement to create conditions for voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return,” she said.

Shabia was speaking at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on Tuesday marking the fifth year of the influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh.

This week marks five years since more than 700,000 Rohingya women, men and children fled Myanmar for Bangladesh, joining hundreds of thousands of other Rohingyas who had sought and found refuge in the country in previous years. The latest exodus from Myanmar is now officially defined as being a protracted situation. 

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, is appealing for much greater efforts to secure both financial support and solutions for the Rohingya.

A release on the briefing issued by the UNHCR from Geneva said that since the onset of the humanitarian crisis, the government of Bangladesh and localcommunities, with aid agencies, were quick to respond to arriving refugees, providing shelter in what is now the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. 

Five years later, many Rohingya refugees have told UNHCR they wish to return home to Myanmar so long as conditions for safe, dignified and sustainable returns are met and they can enjoy freedom of movement, access to documentation and a pathway tocitizenship, as well as access to services and income-generating activities.

The release said that for the almost 1 million stateless Rohingya refugees, conditions in Bangladesh are extremely overcrowded, and they remain fully reliant on humanitarian assistance for their survival. With decreased funding, they face many challenges in their daily lives.

It said that multiple humanitarian assessment surveys have found that the most commonly unmet needs include proper nutrition, shelter materials, sanitation facilities and livelihood opportunities. Some have resorted to dangerous boat journeys to seek a better future.

Protection needs -- especially for women, children and people with disabilities – are often under-reported. Violence against children and women, especially gender-basedviolence, is shrouded in stigma that can render survivors voiceless, often unable toaccess legal, medical, psycho-social or other forms of support, according to the release.

“Support must be stepped up for education, skills development, and livelihood opportunities. These activities will prepare refugees for eventual return while also helping them remain safe and productive during their stay in Bangladesh,” it said.

Some 10,000 Rohingya children in Bangladesh are already enrolled in the Myanmar curriculum, taught in the Myanmar language. Support for sustained and expandedaccess to the Myanmar curriculum is needed. 

UNHCR called it a milestone towards a more formal education that helps close the gap for older children who previously had no learningopportunities.

 In the release, UNHCR also appealed for further investment from the international community to ensure Rohingya refugees can benefit from skills development, including vocationaltraining and other forms of capacity-building for adolescent and adult refugees. 

“This will allow refugees to support their communities and live with dignity in Bangladesh, and above all to prepare them for rebuilding their lives when they can voluntarily and safely return to Myanmar,” it said.