UNHCR, NGOs seek stronger partnerships for lasting solutions for forcibly displaced, stateless in Asia Pacific
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, together with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society actors in the Asia and the Pacific region, on Friday recommitted to enhanced collaboration to work towards sustainable solutions for the forcibly displaced and stateless. In collaboration with the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN), International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) and the Asia Pacific Network of Refugees (APNOR), UNHCR’s Regional NGO Consultations for 2023 were held in Bangkok, Thailand on 14 and 15 September. The in-person and virtual event brought together over 180 participants, representing 161 organizations from 19 countries in the Asia and the Pacific to discuss topics around the central theme of “Promoting Inclusion for Sustainable Solutions.” 2 Rohingyas shot dead during gunfight at Ukhiya camp Currently, there are over 7 million refugees or asylum-seekers and 5 million conflict-affected internally displaced people (IDPs) in the region, as recorded at the end of 2022. Most of those displaced live in increasingly protracted situations in countries where they have found refuge. “Inclusion is a complex subject, often misinterpreted, but when dissected covers many of the key issues we collectively work on to find local solutions for refugees: education, livelihoods, skills and healthcare,” said Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR Director for Asia and the Pacific. The consultations provided an opportunity for humanitarian partners in Asia and the Pacific to discuss best practices and approaches on how including displaced populations and stateless people in all aspects of life contributes to resilience and long-lasting solutions for the benefit of the whole society. UK to push for long-term solution to Rohingya crisis “Meaningful inclusion requires a shift in thinking that those forcibly displaced are not beneficiaries of support but are assets. They make important contributions to the communities that they are a part of and by extension require supportive policies and protections to really enable their inclusion,” said Keya Saha Chaudhury, ICVA Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific. Among the specific topics discussed were how UNHCR, NGOs, and community-based organizations can cooperate with and support member States to promote inclusion in national systems. “Empowering refugee-led organizations is essential. These organizations possess an intimate understanding of the communities they represent and can serve as valuable intermediaries, bridging communication gaps, and facilitating community-driven solutions. Secondly, promoting gender balance is imperative. Member states should actively work to ensure equitable representation of women in decision-making processes at all levels, both within refugee communities and in engagements with government bodies,” said Najeeba Wazefadost, APNOR Executive Director. UN Assistant Secretary-General Kanni Wignaraja visits Ukhia Rohingya camp Throughout the Consultations, participants also acknowledged the important role that refugee-led organizations and civil society play in the refugee response; how to further encourage countries in the region to engage in resettlement and complementary pathways; social-economic inclusion as well as the need for predictable and equitable responsibility-sharing. “We need to think of innovative ways to incorporate the skills that refugees bring to the host communities. We need to ensure that refugees have a platform to utilize those skills and be able to contribute to society so that they can go from vulnerable groups to capable communities,” said Hafsar Tameesuddin, APRRN Co-Secretary General of Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network. Recommendations from the discussions will be presented at UNHCR Executive Committee in October 2023 and inform and support the global NGO consultations in Geneva in June 2024. The first UNHCR-NGO Regional Consultations were held in July 2021, and focused on the social-economic inclusion of refugees in the context of Covid-19.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has stopped providing food assistance to 23 Rohingya people belonging to four families in Cox’s Bazar. Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Md Mizanur Rahman confirmed the matter saying that their food aid has been stopped since Monday morning. “These 23 Rohingyas of four families have agreed over repatriation under a pilot project. Their food has been stopped since Monday morning. But UNHCR did not disclose why the food aid has been stopped," he said. Read: UNHCR ‘not involved’ in discussions on Bangladesh-Myanmar pilot project on Rohingya repatriation These Rohingyas are being provided with food assistance in an alternative way, he added. When contacted, Ikhtiyar Uddin Bayezid, deputy head of UNHCR's Cox's Bazar office, said that the higher officials can say the reason behind the discontinuation of the food assistance. Bangladesh and Myanmar recently decided to undertake a pilot repatriation project under which a group of verified Myanmar nationals will return to their country of origin in the first batch. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State are currently “not conducive” to the sustainable return of Rohingya refugees. Read: OIC members must share responsibility for sustainable solution to Rohingya crisis: Momen “UNHCR’s position on returns of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar remains unchanged,” said the UN agency sharing its assessment. The UN agency said it is aware of the visit of a Myanmar delegation to Bangladesh to meet with a group of Rohingya refugees — on a bilateral pilot project between the two countries on possible repatriation. “UNHCR is not involved in these discussions,” it said in a statement on Bangladesh, Myanmar pilot project on Rohingya returns. The statement was shared by the UNHCR Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific on Sunday (March 19, 2023) night. Read: FM calls on global community to raise their voices to ensure safe return of Rohingyas
UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, has said conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State are currently “not conducive” to the sustainable return of Rohingya refugees. “UNHCR’s position on returns of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar remains unchanged,” said the UN agency sharing its assessment. The UN agency said it is aware of the visit of a Myanmar delegation to Bangladesh to meet with a group of Rohingya refugees — on a bilateral pilot project between the two countries on possible repatriation. “UNHCR is not involved in these discussions,” it said in a statement on Bangladesh, Myanmar pilot project on Rohingya returns. The statement was shared by the UNHCR Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific on Sunday (March 19, 2023) night. Read More: OIC members must share responsibility for sustainable solution to Rohingya crisis: Momen At the same time, the UNHCR reiterated that every refugee has a right to return to their home country based on an informed choice, but that no refugee should be forced to do so. Bangladesh has consistently reaffirmed its commitment to voluntary and sustainable repatriation since the onset of the crisis, it said. In support of efforts to preserve the right to return, UNHCR considers consultation of and dialogue with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh by all parties in relation to the conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State as important to enable refugees to make an informed choice about return and build confidence amongst the community. “This is particularly important as many refugees have reiterated that they do hope to go home to Myanmar as soon as conditions allow,” UNHCR said. Read More: FM calls on global community to raise their voices to ensure safe return of Rohingyas Following the events of August 2017, UNHCR has also consistently encouraged Myanmar to expeditiously verify the previous residence in Myanmar of refugees in Bangladesh, as part of efforts to lift any administrative obstacles to return when the refugees decide to do so. “UNHCR therefore supports efforts that could lead to the verification of all refugees and pave the way for eventual return. This most recently included providing logistical support to members of the Myanmar delegation to cross into Bangladesh for the technical verification process,” said the UN agency. UNHCR said it will continue to work with Bangladesh and Myanmar to ensure that Rohingya refugees maintain the right to return when they choose to do so, based on a fully informed and voluntary decision. UNHCR will also support efforts to create conditions that would be conducive to the sustainable return of Rohingya refugees in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Read More: US announces $26m more in assistance for Rohingyas, host communities In Bangladesh, UNHCR will continue to support building the skills and capacities of the refugees to facilitate their eventual return and sustainable reintegration in Myanmar. The 2023 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis in Bangladesh was recently launched and UNHCR calls upon the international community’s continued robust support for this appeal which is currently 10 percent funded.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and partners are calling on the international community to redouble efforts for sustained financial support and solutions for Rohingya refugees and the Bangladeshi host communities them as the dire situation enters its sixth year. Under the leadership of the Bangladeshi authorities, the 2023 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis calls for $876 million to reach 1.47 million people. The Joint Response Plan brings together 116 partners, nearly half of them national organizations from Bangladesh. The Plan, which was launched today, aims to help some 978,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar and on the island of Bhasan Char, and 495,000 Bangladeshis in neighbouring communities, with food, shelter, health care, access to drinkable water, protection services, education, as well as livelihood opportunities and skills development. Every day, the nearly one million Rohingya women, children and men that fled from violence and persecution in Myanmar for Bangladesh wake up in a chilling fog of uncertainty about their futures, said Johannes van der Klaauw, UNHCR Representative in Dhaka, Bangladesh at a press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on Tuesday. They are desperate to return to their homes in Myanmar, which are currently out of reach, and instead live in extremely overcrowded, and sometimes dangerous conditions in refugee camps, relying almost entirely on humanitarian assistance for their survival, the UNHCR envoy said. "While the situation has become protracted, the needs of refugees remain urgent. Women and children, who make up more than 75 per cent of the targeted refugee population, face higher risks of abuse, exploitation, and gender-based violence," said Johannes van der Klaauw. More than half of the refugees in the camps are under 18, their futures on hold. Since the onset of this humanitarian crisis in 2017, the Government of Bangladesh and local communities, with aid agencies, have been quick to respond to arriving refugees in what remains the world’s largest refugee camp. However, as global displacement continues to rise, so does the risk that the needs of Rohingya refugees and surrounding host communities will be forgotten, Johannes added With decreased funding, refugees stand to face even more challenges in their daily lives in terms of proper nutrition, shelter materials, sanitation facilities and livelihood opportunities. The lack of funds has already forced the World Food Programme to cut its lifesaving food assistance to all Rohingya living in the camps; despite concerted humanitarian efforts, 45 per cent of Rohingya families are not eating a sufficiently healthy diet and malnutrition is widespread. These ration cuts are likely to result in higher malnutrition rates, deteriorating health, school dropouts, increased incidents of child marriage, child labour and gender-based violence. "It is therefore vital to ensure continued funding and support to be able to deliver life-saving and life-sustaining assistance to the camp population while also investing in education, skills training and livelihood opportunities, allowing refugees to partially fulfil their basic needs with their own means," he said. The relocation of some 30,000 Rohingya to the island of Bhasan Char needs to be complemented by significant investment in communal livelihood initiatives as a prerequisite for the viability and sustainability of the project. The combination of prolonged displacement and deteriorating camp conditions has prompted an increasing number of refugees to resort to dangerous boat journeys to seek a better future. Last year alone, more than 3,500 Rohingya attempted high-risk boat journeys across the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal. Sadly, 10 per cent lost their lives or went missing. The solutions to the Rohingya crisis ultimately lie within Myanmar. Many Rohingya refugees continue to express their desire to return home when conditions allow, yet currently there is no prospect for a safe, dignified and sustainable return in the immediate future. "Hence, steadfast support from the international community remains crucial to support efforts by Myanmar to develop conditions conducive for return and to uphold the Rohingya right to return, while also supporting delivery of life-saving assistance and effective protection to refugees in the camps until they can return, with their rights ensured." Given its geography, annual cycles of heavy monsoon rains and cyclones pose substantial risks to refugees in camps and host communities. Among the objectives of the Joint Response Plan, in coordination with the Government of Bangladesh, will be to strengthen disaster risk management and combat the effects of climate change through reforestation and promoting the use of renewable and cleaner energy sources. The provision of cooking gas, which has significantly eased pressure on the environment, requires significant funding.
The government of Japan and UNHCR have signed an agreement for the protection and assistance of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The contribution of US$ 4.5 million [JPY 600 million] will be used for reinforcement of life-saving and life-sustaining services by improving the livelihood of refugees and host communities in Cox’s Bazar and on Bhasan Char. An exchange of notes was signed on Wednesday by Iwama Kiminori, Ambassador of Japan to Bangladesh, and Johannes van der Klaauw, UNHCR Representative in Bangladesh, said the Japanese Embassy in Dhaka on Wednesday. Also Read: Japanese PM's special advisor for human rights issues visits Bangladesh "This new contribution from the government of Japan for some of UNHCR’s essential protection and assistance programs as well as livelihood activities in the camps in Cox’s Bazar and on Bhasan Char comes at a critical time now that we are facing a looming funding crisis already manifest in reduced refugee access to food”, said Johannes van der Klaauw, UNHCR Representative in Bangladesh. He said Japan is once more at the forefront of supporting UNHCR programmes in Bangladesh. “We hope this contribution will also serve as a catalyst for other donors to follow suit”. During his visit to Cox's Bazar last month, Ambassador Iwama said he was impressed by the use of information technology for the joint management of the registration for Rohingya refugees by the Government of Bangladesh and UNHCR. “I was also delighted to witness strengthened livelihood assistance in collaboration with a Japanese company, where Rohingya women produce sanitary goods. We will continue to engage in the solution for a voluntary, safe and sustainable return , and will cooperate with UNHCR and other humanitarian partners to achieve better living conditions for refugees and host communities.” said H.E. Iwama Kiminori, Ambassador of Japan to Bangladesh,” he said. Also Read: Japan to provide grant aid for 2 projects Ambassador Iwama expressed his hope that the support from the government of Japan would improve living conditions of both Rohingya and local communities. “Also, I was profoundly touched by the tireless activities of the Government of Bangladesh, the UN agencies, and NGOs. I recognized the need for continuous support for them, and we will commit to that,” he said. Since the large influx in August 2017, Japan has contributed over US$ 204 million to various interventions in Cox's Bazar as well as in Bhasan Char through international organizations and NGOs. This assistance includes food assistance, healthcare, WASH, shelter, protection, and gender.
UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, together with the Bangladesh government will soon launch the Joint Response Plan for 2023 to appeal to donor partners for funding to meet the needs of Rohingyas in Bangladesh and the local communities hosting them here. “We shall appeal for approximately $876 million in all relevant sectors, of which some $67 million would be required for our operations on Bhasan Char,” Johannes van der Klaauw, UNHCR Representative in Bangladesh, told UNB in an exclusive interview. As in the past, he said, they do not expect this budget to be funded to the full, but the gap is expected to be much larger in the coming year. “We therefore need to redouble our efforts to mobilize resources and notably development funding, to be used in a flexible manner, as humanitarian aid budgets are no longer available,” said the senior UN official. At the same time, Klaauw said, they are prioritizing funding needs more than before — focusing on the most vulnerable and addressing the most critical gaps. Read more: Vulnerable Rohingyas: US to consider resettlement recommendations from UNHCR UNHCR continues to appeal for further investments by the international community in refugees’ education and skills development, including vocational training and other forms of capacity-building for adolescent and adult refugees, and opportunities to put the acquired learning and skills into practice through livelihood projects. Rohingya refugees should be allowed to become self-reliant, to purchase part of their daily food, cooking gas, household items, as general distribution of these commodities will no longer be possible as a result of a reduction in financial support from the international community, said Klaauw who leads UNHCR’s response for the Rohingya refugees hosted in the country. This will allow the refugees to support their communities and live with dignity while in exile in Bangladesh, and above all to prepare them for rebuilding their lives when they can voluntarily and safely return to Myanmar, he said.
More than 3,500 desperate Rohingya attempted deadly sea crossings in 39 boats in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal in 2022, according to the latest data from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. This represents a 360 per cent increase on the year before when some 700 people made similar journeys, said UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo at a press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on Tuesday. In the absence of a comprehensive regional response to address these perilous maritime movements, UNHCR warns that more people will die on the high seas, under the watch of many coastal States. UNHCR has recorded an alarming rise in the death toll. At least 348 individuals died or went missing at sea in 2022, making it one of the deadliest years since 2014. Some 3,040 individuals who undertook the sea journey disembarked in 2022, primarily in Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh. Nearly 45 per cent of those who disembarked were women and children, according to the UN Refugee Agency. In the last two months of 2022, four boats carrying over 450 Rohingya disembarked in Aceh, Indonesia. One boat carrying over 100 Rohingya disembarked in Sri Lanka. One boat is feared to have sunk in early December with approximately 180 individuals on board. Several boats that departed in December remained at sea as of the end of the year. Read more: Very limited spaces offered for Rohingya resettlement: UNHCR Calls by UNHCR to maritime authorities in the region to rescue and disembark people in distress have gone unheeded with many boats adrift for weeks. Most boats departed from Myanmar and Bangladesh, highlighting the growing sense of desperation amongst Rohingya in those two countries. Those who have disembarked report that they undertook these dangerous sea journeys in an effort to find protection, security, family reunification, and livelihoods in other countries. Among them are victims of trafficking, unaccompanied and separated children, and survivors of sexual- and gender-based violence. The current crisis in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea is a crisis of solidarity, UNHCR said. The Bali Process, a forum for policy dialogue, information sharing and cooperation to address people smuggling, human trafficking and related transnational crime, will hold its 8th Ministerial meeting in February. Read more: Vulnerable Rohingyas: US to consider resettlement recommendations from UNHCR UNHCR repeats its call for prompt search and rescue and timely disembarkation in a place of safety, and for support to countries where Rohingya refugees are disembarked. "We call on countries to redouble efforts to prevent human smuggling and trafficking," said UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo at a press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. There is also a need for humanitarian responsibility to be more evenly distributed among countries in the region to ensure protection responses are predictable, equitable, and sustainable. The region and the international community need to support efforts to address the root causes of displacement in Myanmar. Until these are resolved, refugees will continue to undertake dangerous journeys in search of safety.
Cox's Bazar Sadar Hospital will be turned to a 500-bed one from 250 beds to provide better health care to the Rohingya population and rising tourists, said Health Minister Zahid Maleque on Thursday. Besides, arrangements will be made to provide dialysis service at the hospital, said the minister. He was speaking at the inauguration of the newly built "Dr. Abdur Nur Bulbul Bhaban" at Cox's Bazar Sadar Hospital, a joint initiative of Bangladesh Government and UNHCR. Read more: Govt to issue health cards for all: Health Minister Although Cox's Bazar currently has a 250-bed Sadar hospital, 600-700 patients receive health care there every day, he said. “Patients are receiving treatment staying on the hospital floor as well. That’s why it is important to increase the number of beds in this hospital.” He said if this three-storied hospital can be turned into a 10-storied one , it will be possible better health services to 28 lakh local people and tourists. Read more: No unauthorised clinics in Dhaka city, health minister tells JS
At least 26 Rohingya Muslims had died in dire conditions during a month at open sea while making a dangerous voyage that brought scores of others to safety in Indonesia, a U.N. agency said Tuesday, adding there will likely be more. Exhausted women and children were among 185 people who disembarked from a rickety wooden boat on Monday in a coastal village in Aceh’s Pidie district, authorities said. A distressing video circulated widely on social media showed the Rohingya worn out and emaciated, with many crying for help. Read more: More Rohingya refugees reach Indonesia after weeks at sea “They are very weak because of dehydration and exhaustion after weeks at sea,” said local police chief Fauzi, who goes by a single name. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said that survivors told the agency that 26 people died during the long journey. One of the refugees, who identified himself as Rosyid, told The Associated Press that they left the refugee camp in Bangladesh at the end of November and drifted on the open sea. He said at least “20 of us died aboard due to high waves and sick, and their bodies were thrown into the sea.” According to UNHCR, more than 2,000 people are reported to have taken risky sea journeys in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal this year, and nearly 200 have reportedly died. UNHCR has also received unconfirmed reports of one additional boat with some 180 people still missing, with all passengers presumed dead. “In the absence of an immediate, resourceful, and coordinated response by regional governments to help Rohingya refugees still aboard imperiled vessels, lives may be lost,” Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid said in an statement. “This is unacceptable.” Read more: Urgently rescue boat carrying upto 200 Rohingyas: ASEAN parliamentarians urge member states, others Chris Lewa, the director of the Arakan Project, which works in support of Myanmar’s Rohingya, said the latest arrivals were among five groups of Rohingya who had left refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh by smaller boats to avoid detection by local coast guards before they were transferred onto five larger boats for their respective journeys. More than 1 million Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar over several decades, including about 740,000 who crossed the border starting in August 2017, when the Myanmar military launched a brutal crackdown. Myanmar’s security forces were accused of mass rapes, killings and torching thousands of homes, and international courts are reviewing charges of genocide against them. “This year could be one of the deadliest in recent memory for Rohingya people making the dangerous journey by sea. They continue to risk it all because of harsh conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh, where security and other living conditions have deteriorated, and the ever-worsening situation at home in Myanmar, which has been under military rule since a coup almost two years ago,” Amnesty International’s Usman said. Malaysia has been a common destination for many of the refugees arriving by boat, but they also have been detained in the country. Engine troubles make others seek safety in Aceh province in Indonesia, on the way to Malaysia. UNHCR praised authorities and Indonesia’s local community who brought ashore more than 200 desperate Rohingya, many of whom were in need of urgent medical attention. Indonesian fishermen and local authorities rescued and disembarked two groups, 58 on Sunday and 174 on Monday, said Ann Maymann, the UNHCR representative in Indonesia, “We welcome this act of humanity by local communities and authorities in Indonesia.”
The UN refugee agency, has said some 190 desperate people are on the verge of perishing at sea, adrift somewhere between the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal as pleas to rescue and disembark them are continuously ignored. Reports indicate those onboard have now remained at sea for a month in dire conditions with insufficient food or water, without any efforts by States in the region to help save human lives. Many are women and children, with reports of up to 20 people dying on the unseaworthy vessel during the journey. Read more: Trawler capsize: 29 Rohingya refugees among 33 detained en route to Malaysia All states have a responsibility to rescue those on the boat and allow them to safely disembark in line with legal obligations and in the name of humanity, according to a media release received from Bangkok on Friday. "This shocking ordeal and tragedy must not continue. These are human beings – men, women and children. We need to see the states in the region help save lives and not let people die," said Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR director for Asia and the Pacific. Since the first reports of the boat being sighted in Thai waters, the UNHCR has received unverified information of the vessel being spotted near Indonesia and then subsequently off the coast of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India. The boat's current location is reportedly once more back eastwards, in the Andaman sea north of Aceh. The UNHCR repeatedly asked all countries in the region to make saving lives a priority. The agency had alerted the Indian marine rescue centre earlier this week, requesting immediate action to save lives and allow for disembarkation. "It is devastating to learn that many people have already lost their lives, including children," said Ratwatte. "Sadly, this makes it one of the deadliest years in the seas in the region." Read more: UNHCR raises concerns over Afghan refugees forced returns from Tajikistan It is very hard for the UNHCR to verify this information, but if true this will take the number of dead and missing in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea to nearly 200 this year, the UN agency said. This is a shocking number that represents around 10 percent of the estimated 2,000 people who have taken risky sea journeys in the region in 2022.