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UNHCR: Rohingya crisis needs lasting solutions
By Andrej Mahecic > UNHCR spokesperson and By Nur Ayna in Kutupalong camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling for renewed support and solutions for displaced and stateless Rohingya communities both within and outside of Myanmar today.
Three years on from the latest exodus of Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar and sought sanctuary in Bangladesh from August 2017 onwards, challenges persist and continue to evolve. The COVID-19 pandemic has added additional complexities. The international community must not only maintain support for refugees and their host communities, but adapt to critical needs and expand the search for solutions.
Rohingya communities estimate that up to three-quarters of the Rohingya people are today living outside of Myanmar. UNHCR and the Government of Bangladesh have individually registered over 860,000 Rohingya refugees in the refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar. Bangladesh has demonstrated a profound humanitarian commitment to Rohingya refugees. It has ensured their protection and extended life-saving humanitarian support, and now hosts nine out of ten Rohingya refugees registered in the Asia-Pacific region. This generosity must be acknowledged through continued investment in both Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi host communities.
Ultimately, the solution to the plight of the Rohingya lies in Myanmar, and in comprehensively implementing the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, to which the Government of Myanmar has committed.
Creating conditions that are conducive to the Rohingya people’s safe and sustainable return will require whole of society engagement, resuming and enhancing the dialogue between the Myanmar authorities and Rohingya refugees, as well as other measures that help inspire trust. These include lifting restrictions on freedom of movement, reconfirming that internally displaced Rohingya can return to their own villages and providing a clear pathway towards citizenship.
Outside of Myanmar, our collective efforts must be directed not only to ensuring the dignity and well-being of the Rohingya today but also on preserving their hopes and improving prospects for their futures. This means working towards lasting solutions not only in Myanmar itself, but also through study and work opportunities outside of countries of asylum, and third-country pathways for those with the most acute vulnerabilities.
‘We all miss home, but we cannot go back to the same fear’
By Nur Ayna in Kutupalong camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Following an outbreak of extreme violence in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state in August 2017, more than 740,000 Rohingya children, women and men sought safety in Bangladesh as refugees – among them 18-year-old Nur Ayna.
Today, Nur works as a Burmese language instructor at a learning center in Kutupalong refugee camp, in Cox’s Bazar district. She reflects here on life in Myanmar – where the Rohingya are a stateless minority – her experiences as a refugee, and hopes for the future.
“ In Myanmar, we had our lands where we grew flowers, vegetables and many plants. We had a big house where all the family members lived together. The violence and the killing drove us to leave our homes. They burnt houses in my neighbourhood. They shot and killed a lot of people in my village. We were living with fear every day. When we finally decided to leave, we had no other option.
It was the most difficult journey of my life. We walked for 13 days and nights. To cross the river, my family used a handmade bamboo raft. There were a lot of people with us – I couldn’t say what the number was, it was so huge.
Today in Bangladesh, we are three siblings living with our mother in the same house. My elder sister is married and lives with her in-laws in a different camp. I have some other relatives in the camps too, but we are no longer living like we used to in Myanmar. We are all scattered in different camps. But what more can we expect while we’re living in a refugee camp?
I miss my home and gardens a lot, but mostly I miss going to my school and studying. I didn’t have to work there – we had enough to afford a living. But here I have to work to support my family. I miss my old life in Myanmar.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, I taught Rohingya children at the Mango Temporary Learning Centre in Kutupalong. We did not have much to teach them, but the children still enjoyed coming. They learned the alphabet, numeracy, Burmese poems and songs, and enjoyed the time with their friends. But the coronavirus pandemic has changed all of our lives.