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ActionAid: We must come together to ensure a safe return for Rohingya refugees

Cox's Bazar Rohingya refugee camp, Bangladesh

The Rohingya people have now been displaced from their homes in Myanmar for five years, with almost a million of them living in refugee camps in Bangladesh. The majority of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are women and children, and over 40% are under the age of 12

Ahead of the five-year anniversary, last week the Bangladesh government called for Rohingya refugees to be repatriated and for the UN to help them return to Myanmar.

Farah Kabir, Country Director of ActionAid Bangladesh, says:  

“International leaders have failed to secure a safe and dignified migration for the Rohingyas to their homeland. This is frustrating for both the Rohingya people and human rights advocates. Rohingyas undoubtedly deserve justice and a safe future. The international community must now come together to ensure that happens.  

To realise that goal fruitfully, I believe we will need strong collaboration, sustainable funding, and long-term solutions. We must also ensure justice for the Rohingya people as set out in the United Nations’ mandate on refugees, as well as in the recent ruling of the International Court of Justice. Myanmar authorities must also take full responsibility, providing the Rohingya people with legal status and creating conditions that enable them to have a safe, voluntary and sustainable repatriation. The plight of the Rohingya people and their long-awaited calls for justice and accountability can no longer be overlooked. 

In the meantime, the Bangladesh government, with the support of countries in the region and the international community, must continue to provide the refugees with the support they need now. This includes strengthening education; safety; livelihood skills; healthcare services, especially for women and girls; awareness about sexual and reproductive health and rights; and clean water and food.” 

Portrait of ActionAid Stuff Fatema Begum. Cox's Bazar, Rohingya Refugee Camp. Cox's Bazar, Rohingya Refugee Camp
Fatema Begum, an ActionAid worker, at Coxs Bazar, Rohingya Refugee Camp in Bangladesh.
Fabeha Monir/ActionAid

ActionAid Bangladesh was one of the first responders to the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh in 2017 and, since that massive influx, has been engaged in supporting the affected population with different initiatives. The organisation has provided services in multiple sectors, including food security and livelihood; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); site-management and site development; protection; and emergency support during disasters. It provides dignity kits during disasters, psychosocial care by engaging women and young and adolescent girls in safe spaces, counselling services for managing and mitigating gender-based violence, and important information on critical lifesaving services. Through these different interventions, ActionAid Bangladesh works directly with over 380,000 people, including people both from the Rohingya community, in 32 camps, and the host community.

Sajeda, a Rohingya woman from Myanmar who has been living in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh for five years, says:

“We came here to save our lives and we were saved. […] We had a lot of assets in Myanmar. I had no food scarcity. Now we go to the agencies for [food], which is heartbreaking for us. In Myanmar, my family fed a lot of people but here, we need to seek help for a single meal. We need to spend the whole day collecting relief. That’s what hurts the most.” 

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