Refugee Nurul Amin (35) watches families arrive in the mega refugee camp of Kutupalong. They are on their way from the UN transit centre to their new homes inside the camp. Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/NRC

NGOs warn of worsening crisis in Myanmar, call for refugees’ engagement on safe, voluntary returns

Published 21. Aug 2019
Two years after being forced from their homes by mass atrocities in Myanmar, and striving for safety and dignity in Bangladesh, Rohingya are still waiting for justice and a say about their future, said 61 international and national organisations working in Myanmar and Bangladesh today. In a joint statement the agencies call for human rights for all to be recognised in Rakhine State and for Rohingya refugees to have a part in decision-making about their own lives, including their return to Myanmar.

“Bangladesh has provided safety for decades to Rohingya refugees, including the 740,000 who fled during the last two years - a hospitality many countries can learn from. But as years go by, the refugees must not only receive basic support for survival, but also an opportunity to live a dignified life, get an education and livelihood opportunities. The international community should take their share of responsibility and increase their economic support, but also step up political and diplomatic efforts to secure durable solutions for the Rohingya,” said country director for NRC in Bangladesh Shaun Scales.   

Amid news of possible expedited returns to Myanmar, the organisations voiced strong concerns about the safety of Rohingya families in Rakhine State as conflict escalates, and humanitarian access remains limited. They urged the Governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Rohingya refugees when conditions so permit as news of possible expedited repatriation of 3,450 refugees circulated this week.

“Conditions should be put in place for a safe and dignified return to Myanmar, and the Rohingya refugees must be listened to in this process. However, this is not the time for large-scale returns. The situation in Myanmar is fragile and conflict affects all communities in Rakhine state, as well as across the country. As long as the safety of families returning to Myanmar cannot be guaranteed, nobody should be pushed to go back,” Scales said.

For the past two years, national and international organisations have assisted the Government of Bangladesh and UN agencies to effectively provide life-sustaining support to refugees in the world’s largest refugee camp. Their collective efforts have stabilised camp conditions, strengthened monsoon preparedness and helped prevent disease outbreaks. But more needs to be done. The agencies called on international community to increase funding to the humanitarian response in Myanmar and Bangladesh to improve the lives of refugees, internally displaced persons and host communities.