Ukraine war causes challenge to Rohingya funding, says UNHCR

Long stay of refugees sparks tension: Foreign Minister

FE ONLINE REPORT | Thursday, 26 May 2022

UN High Commissioner and Under Secretary General for Refugees Philippo Grandi on Wednesday said that the Ukraine war poses challenges in mobilising funds to provide humanitarian support for Rohingya refugees.

According to Mr Grandi the funding situation was satisfactory before the war started.

“But now I fear with the Ukraine war, with Afghanistan and a lot of competing crisis we will struggle a bit,” Mr Grandi told a press briefing to wrap up his Bangladesh visit.

The world should not forget the Rohingya crisis because so much attention and resources are absorbed by the Ukraine emergency, he said.

“Bangladesh has been bearing the responsibilities for five years and this support cannot be declined. Maximum pressures on all donors and financial institutions need to continue to support the Rohingya” he observed.

“By the way, the Ukraine emergency poses a problem here as well, he said adding that the prices of much needed liquid gas at Rohingya camps rose due to the direct impact of the Ukraine war.”

Responding to a question on the Rohingya repatriation, the UN high commissioner made it clear that repatriation will not take place any soon.

“But I must be realistic. This is not something which will happen tomorrow” the UNHCR chief noted.

UNHCR is engaged with the Myanmar authorities in this regard and is trying to resolve the crisis in line with the Kofi Annan Commission report, which is the ‘master framework’ of the solutions, he pointed out.

He noted that ensuring freedom of movement and providing citizenship to Rohingya in Rakhine are crucial to starting repatriation. If Rohingya refugees are confined in camps in Rakhine, then the Rohingya refugees will not feel encouraged to go back, he observed.

“Let’s design a pathway to citizenship because this is the most controversial issue,” he said adding that without citizenship the Rohingya always consider themselves stateless people.

Replying to a question on the influx of Rohingya from India, the UNHCR chief said that they urged all the neighbouring countries not to put more pressure on Bangladesh and to take due steps to stop such influx.

Regarding the scope of involvement of more donors in Bhasanchar, he said that he had discussions with donors and investors and they have shown positive attitude towards Bhasanchar.

But they want to see the sustainability of the Bhasanchar project as they do not want to fund a project which is not sustainable, he said.

However, he lauded the recent government move to make Bhasanchar island more accessible.

Mr Grandi also urged the ASEAN countries to engage themselves in resolving the Rohingya crisis and hoped that Bangladesh itself would continue its dialogue with Myanmar to end the crisis.

Responding to another question he said that the issue of freedom of movement of refugees in Rohingya camps is being determined by the Bangladesh government as per their policies.

Meanwhile, during his meeting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Under-Secretary General Filippo Grandi at state guest house Padma, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen urged him to enhance their activities in Rakhine in creating a conducive environment for a sustainable repatriation.

Foreign Minister added that proactive engagement of the international community in building confidence among the Rohingya people is crucial for sustainable repatriation, a spokesperson of the ministry said.

Momen urged the UNHCR High Commissioner to engage with Myanmar with the view to creating a conducive environment in the Rakhine State for early repatriation.

The foreign minister expressed concerns over the presence of a huge number of persecuted and displaced Rohingya people, which might have multifaceted ramifications on the entire region.

He mentioned that Rohingya, over time, are getting frustrated due to uncertainty over the repatriation and thus are increasingly engaged in criminal activities like drug and human trafficking.

Also the prolonged stay of the displaced population is creating tensions among the local population, he added underscoring the need for undertaking projects for the well-being of the local population.  

The High Commissioner assured to extend all sorts of support to Bangladesh in ensuring sustainable repatriation of the Rohingya to Rakhine.

He also informed that the UNHCR and other international agencies are undertaking a number of projects for the benefit of the local population in Cox’s Bazar.

While highlighting various aspects of Bhasan Char, the foreign minister emphasised on the full engagement of UN systems in Bhasan Char to provide humanitarian assistance for all the relocated Rohingya on the island.

Filippo Grandi arrived Bangladesh on May 21. He travelled to Cox’s Bazar on May 21-23 and visited Bhasan Char on May 24. He left Dhaka for Geneva on May 25. This is his fifth visit to Bangladesh.

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