In Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, the world’s largest refugee camp—shown here in October 2018—is home to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees. Credit: Allison Joyce / Save The Children.

Sixty-one NGOs Warn of Worsening Crisis in Myanmar, Call for Refugees’ Engagement on Safe, Voluntary Returns

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (Aug. 20, 2019)—Two years after being forced from their homes by mass atrocities in Myanmar, nearly 1 million Rohingya are still waiting for justice and a say about their futures, and are struggling for safety and dignity in Bangladesh as refugees. In a joint statement released today, 61 local, national, and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working in the two countries called for human rights for all to be recognized in Rakhine state, Myanmar, and for Rohingya refugees to have a role in decision-making about their own lives, including conditions for their return to Myanmar.

The NGOs voiced strong concerns about the safety of affected families in Rakhine state, including Rohingya, as the conflict escalates and humanitarian access remains limited. They urged the Governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar to ensure that any return process be safe, voluntary, and dignified, as news of the possible expedited repatriation of 3,450 Rohingya refugees circulated this week.

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

“For two years, Rohingya children and their families have been living in the camps with little hope of a bright future,” said David Skinner, head of Save the Children’s Rohingya response in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. “After suffering some of the worst human rights abuses of the 21st century, they now live in temporary shelters made of bamboo and plastic, and can’t get a proper education. One in 10 children is still malnourished, and fears of trafficking, drugs, and crime in the camps make children feel unsafe.

“It is time for the world to create conditions to support the Rohingya’s safe and voluntary return to Myanmar, where the government must fulfill one of the most basic responsibilities of any government—to guarantee the same level of safety and humanity for all. The Rohingya deserve justice for what they have suffered—perpetrators of human rights violations and crimes against humanity must be held to account so Rohingya children are protected from these atrocities ever happening again. It would give them the future they want.”

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