Representatives of the international community in Bangladesh conducted a two-day visit to Cox's Bazar and visited the Rohingya refugee camps. They reiterated their commitment to support Rohingya refugees in a joint statement on Thursday
The representatives include the ambassadors of the United States (US) and the European Union (EU), the British High Commissioner, the Head of Humanitarian Aid of the Canadian High Commission, the World Bank (WB) Country Director, and the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator.
"After months of necessary Covid-19 restrictions, we are here with our partners to reaffirm our solidarity with Bangladesh as well as support for the Rohingya refugees and the communities generously hosting them," said Mia Seppo, the UN Resident Coordinator.
"We have seen how the decisive actions taken by the authorities have slowed spread of the Covid-19 outbreak, and with the support of the international community, an effective and life-saving response operation is continuing," she added.
The US Ambassador, Earl Miller, noted, "The Rohingya crisis remains an important priority for the US just as it is for Bangladesh and our other international partners, and even more so in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic."
"Since 2017, the US has contributed nearly US$ 800 million to support the humanitarian efforts including specific funding to support Bangladesh host communities in Cox's Bazar district."
"Some two-thirds of the total global funding to the Rohingya response has been provided by the donor countries on this visit. At the same time, we continue working towards solutions along with safe, voluntary and dignified repatriation of the refugees to Myanmar."
During discussions with the delegation, some refugees shared how the Covid-19 situation is impacting their daily lives and how they see the future.
"The refugees have continued to play a critical role in helping their own communities protect themselves against the Covid-19 pandemic. They are the backbone of the response, and their contributions should be fully recognised," highlighted the Head of Humanitarian Aid of Canada, Phedra Moon Morris.
In course of their field visits, the delegation members visited Severe Acute Respiratory Isolation and Treatment Centres, now 14 in number with nearly 1,000 treatment beds, which have been set up to treat Covid-19 patients, both Bangladeshis and Rohingyas, as well as Covid-19 testing centres.
The delegation also visited learning centres, which have been temporarily closed due to Covid-19, leading to a reported increase in hopelessness among refugees, violence against children, and increased rates of child marriage and labour. The team members discussed with the authorities the importance of safe reopening of these and other facilities in a phased manner.
The delegation also discussed about and observed the efforts to keep the camps and surrounding areas in Cox's Bazar safe and secure.
"The authorities continue to play an absolutely critical role in ensuring the safety and security of the Rohingya settlements and the host communities. With any additional and necessary measures, we encourage full humanitarian access to the camps be maintained and that consultations with affected communities continue to take place," said British High Commissioner, Robert Chatterton Dickson.
The delegation also spoke with the government officials about the Bhasan Char project for the refugees.
"While the first 'go and see' visit (to the project) recently was a welcome step, it would also be important that the proposed UN technical and protection assessments are also able to proceed, as well as the separate humanitarian and protection visits to assess situation for the 306 refugees already relocated there," said the EU Ambassador, Rensje Teerink.
In all their discussions, the delegation members assured the authorities of their unwavering commitment to support the Rohingya refugee response and affected Bangladeshis communities.
"We have been with Bangladesh since the early days of this crisis and will continue to scale up development assistance to Cox's Bazar, having already provided more than half a billion dollars in grants. This crisis cannot and will not be forgotten," said the WB Country Director, Mercy Tembon.
In closing, the delegation commended Bangladesh's generosity in hosting the Rohingya population, and agreed that their return to Myanmar must be voluntary, safe and dignified.
The delegation reiterated that the solution to this crisis lies in Myanmar, and it requires addressing the root causes of the crisis.
Holding perpetrators of the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people in Rakhine state to account would contribute to giving the refugees the confidence to return home, they highlighted.