DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) – A UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) official has called for continued international support for Rohingya refugees and their host country Bangladesh.
UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly T. Clements and UNHCR Director for Asia and the Pacific Indrika Ratwatte undertook a visit to Bangladesh from Feb. 13-18, which included visits to the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, as well as to the island of Bhasan Char, a UNHCR statement said.
Nearly 750,000 Rohingya Muslims fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017 to Bangladesh, pushing the total number of persecuted people in the world’s largest refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar to around 1.2 million.
The statement said that the visit underscored the need for a more comprehensive approach to humanitarian support.
“This includes alternative solutions for Rohingya refugees such as resettlement to third countries for the most vulnerable with specific protection needs, and complementary pathways overseas which could include employment and educational opportunities,” it said.
Clements reiterated UNHCR’s commitment towards voluntary repatriation and other solutions.
The UNHCR officials also held meetings with senior government officials, local and international partners in Bangladesh, and spoke with refugees to understand their needs.
“While refugees clearly express a desire to return home, they also feel their lives would be at risk if they did so today. Therefore, we also need to start working towards other solutions while redoubling efforts to provide access to education, skills training and livelihood opportunities for them and their generous host communities,” Clements said.
On their first visit to Bhasan Char, the delegation recognized the work being done by the Bangladesh government and local civil society partners on the island.
“Bhasan Char has the potential to become a temporary stay for the Rohingya refugees, and there has been clear improvement in the conditions and availability of services since UNHCR and UN partners began supporting the Government in October,” the statement quoted Clements as saying.