THE settlement of the Rohingya people in Bangladesh is the “fastest-growing humanitarian crisis globally”, Christian Aid’s country manager for Bangladesh, Shakeb Nabi, has said.
“No one was prepared for this kind of crisis,” Mr Nabi said on Monday; the Rohingya were “forced to settle in an unprepared area”.
Christian Aid runs two camps for Rohingya refugees from Myanmar: camps 14 and 15, which contain 85,000 people.
More than 700,000 Rohingya have crossed the border from Rakhine state to Bangladesh since August 2017, fleeing a violent crackdown by the military and Buddhist mobs, during which their villages were razed to the ground, women were raped, and thousands were killed (News, 8 September 2017). The UN has described the violence against them as “ethnic cleansing”.
Mr Nabi said: “Christian Aid welcomes Myanmar’s commitment to the voluntary return of the refugees, but we call on the government to give them the right conditions to return, according to Kofi Annan’s plan.
“So far, the repatriatiation has not been successful, and the Rohingya people need to go and see where they will be living to make sure it is correct. Bangladesh has deep solidarity with the people of Myanmar, but the Rohingya need to be given a safe, dignified, and voluntary repatriation.”
Earlier this month, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, warned that any repatriation should be only on the basis of a “free and informed decision by refugees, on an individual basis” (News, 16 November).
He said: “The responsibility to improve those conditions rests with Myanmar. Although UNHCR does not believe current conditions in Rakhine state are conducive to the voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return of refugees from Bangladesh, we remain committed to supporting the government of Myanmar’s efforts to create such conditions.”
Mr Nabi continued: “The Bangladesh government has said it will not happen until these conditions are met. Bangladesh has a high population density, and there is a huge strain on resources at the moment because of the large refugee population.
“There has been a lot of dialogue between Bangladesh and Myanmar — they are both on the same page in terms of what needs to happen, and we see commitment on both sides.”
The humanitarian crisis has been worsened by the stretched resources: Mr Nabi said that “there is a huge pressure on reservoirs, on the labour market, and on food supplies” in the region. Christian Aid, he said, was “trying to fulfil the needs and aspirations of the host community”.
He continued: “Christian Aid has been passionate about localisation, and we work with five local partners in Bangladesh. We are trying to make sure that local communities are helped by local partners. The money required for the Joint Response Plan is only 40-per-cent funded; so the international community really needs to be more forthcoming.”