Britain urges world to consider Rohingya’s suffering in fresh appeal for $1bn in refugee aid

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab leads UN calls to redress Rohingya’s hardship

A Rohingya refugee girl waits for transportation with her mother at Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia on October 15, 2020. / AFP / Munir Uz Zaman

The UK has urged more countries to raise money and address the wide funding gap for Rohingya refugees at a virtual donor conference.

The UN is appealing for more than $1 billion this year to meet the humanitarian needs of Rohingya refugees in camps in Bangladesh after they fled ethnic violence in neighbouring Myanmar, but so far less than half has been accumulated. This leaves a significant funding gap, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cox’s Bazar in south-eastern Bangladesh is the world’s largest refugee camp, housing 860,000 Rohingya Muslims, and is the focus of the virtual event, co-hosted by Britain, the US, the European Union and the UN’s refugee body.

Ahead of the event, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab pledged a further £47.5 million ($63m) in aid, both for the Rohingya and to help Bangladesh deal with the coronavirus pandemic and its frequent natural disasters.

"Today I urge the world not to turn away from the Rohingya's suffering and to take the action necessary to allow them to safely return to the homes they fled in terror," Mr Raab said.

"The people living in Cox's Bazar face unimaginable hardship and many have been victims of violence," Mr Raab said.

The conference co-hosts also invited other countries to contribute to Bangladeshi host communities, and internally displaced people in Myanmar, more than three years since the latest phase of the crisis began in August 2017.

Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said at the event that funding in 2020 was down on the previous year and he urged countries to focus on “the future and the dignity” of the Rohingya.

He appealed that the international community did not “lose ground on the gains we have achieved” in addressing the plight of the Rohingya.

Britain has imposed sanctions on two Myanmar military generals after a UN investigation found them responsible "for atrocities which amount to ethnic cleansing", the UK Foreign Ministry said.

Many in Myanmar see Rohingya people as illegal immigrants, and they are denied citizenship and stripped of rights. Hundreds of thousands fled across the border during a 2017 military offensive in Myanmar, for which its government faces genocide charges at the UN's top court.

The funds raised at the conference will go to international organisations and non-governmental organisations working to alleviate the crisis in Myanmar, throughout south Asia, and as specified by the UN-led Joint Response Plan in Bangladesh.

Nearly one million Rohingya refugees and asylum-seekers from Myanmar are registered in Asia. Along with those in Bangladesh, in Malaysia there are 102,000 registered and in India 18,000. There are also some 600,000 Rohingya currently residing in Rakhine State, Myanmar, of whom 140,000 are internally displaced.