UN urges more international focus on Rohingya refugees

By Panu Wongcha-um

BANGKOK (Reuters) – The United Nations refugee agency on Tuesday urged the international community to keep focus on the plight of the Rohingya refugees amid a funding crunch and the lack of long-term solution for their safe return to Myanmar.

Nearly one million Rohingya Muslims fled a military-led crackdown in Buddhist-majority Myanmar in 2017 and are now living in camps in Bangladesh in what U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi described as “the biggest humanitarian refugee camp in the world”.

The U.N. has managed to secure only 42% of the $875.9 million needed for the Rohingya refugee this year which makes short term support for the refugee population in the camps difficult, Grandi told Reuters in an interview.

“This decline in humanitarian assistance makes it more difficult to continuously, for example, renew the shelters,” Grandi said.

“You have to invest money all the time and that money is becoming short, so conditions are now beginning to regress,” he said.

Grandi was in Bangkok on Tuesday to host a meeting with high level officials in the region on the Rohingya issue, seeking pledges and support from governments and the private sector ahead of the Global Refugee Forum in December.

Grandi praised Bangladesh for “miraculous” works in maintaining the Rohingya camps, allowing education for the Rohingya children, and said that the United Nations is currently discussing with Bangladesh on allowing refugees to work to support their livelihood in the camps.

Improvements to the humanitarian situation in Myanmar, particularly on improving relations between Buddhist and Muslim communities and economic development, are essential to ensure a safe return for the Rohingya to their home, Grandi said.

Myanmar has been under military rule since a 2021 coup and the junta have shown little inclination to take back any Rohingya, who have for years been regarded as foreign interlopers in Myanmar, denied citizenship and subjected to abuse.

The Myanmar coup has also triggered conflict with a resistance movement and armed ethnic groups across the country, displacing more than a million people, the U.N. said.

Myanmar junta spokesman did not answer calls from Reuters seeking comment.

UNHCR high commissioner said Myanmar’s neighbouring countries can do more to press the military government on humanitarian concerns.

“They are the best place to pass messages and to ensure that the humanitarian concerns are heard,” he said.

“People are suffering in Myanmar a lot, not just the Rohingya, and they deserve a better future.”

(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Angus MacSwan)