A call for true solidarity with the Rohingya community

Rohingya refugees on a makeshift raft crossing the Naf River from Myanmar into Bangladesh in 2017. Today, their lives in refugee settlements there have come under threat as armed groups and criminal gangs become more brazen. — ©2024 The New York Times Company

THIS month, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, published its flagship Global Trends Report, which has not brought any immediate hope to the world.

The report published on June 12 in Geneva found that forced displacement rose to 120 million in May 2024, marking the 12th consecutive annual increase – a result of ongoing crises and newly emerging and evolving conflicts. The figure would make the global displaced population equivalent to the 12th largest country in the world, around the size of Japan. One in every 69 people, or 1.5% of the entire world’s population, are now forcibly displaced.

This is nearly double the one in 125 people who were displaced a decade ago. The increase to 117.3 million at the end of 2023 constitutes a rise of 8%, or 8.8 million people compared to the end of 2022 – and is a continuation of the year-on-year increases over the last 12 years.

When every day more people are facing forced displacement globally, the world’s attention is rapidly shifting from one crisis to another. And unfortunately, globally, the focus on the Rohingya crisis is fading.

It has been seven years since the massive influx happened in 2017 and the Rohingya community was forced to flee their homes and leave their country – Myanmar – to come to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, for safety and survival. Since then, they have been enduring dire conditions in the camps. The entire population depends on relief and food aid. Young people are facing challenging situations, spending their time idly without quality life experiences. We can’t imagine how their lives are in the camps.

In the last couple of months, around one million Rohingya have endured extreme heatwaves, two fire incidents, and a cyclone. During the fires, many lost their shelters and now have to live under the open sky. During the heatwave, they lived in tarpaulin shelters.

Besides these disasters, women and adolescent girls are experiencing difficult day-to-day realities. More than 80% of them face gender-based violence by their intimate partners. Child marriage is prevalent. They have limited access to justice and very often do not seek it. The safety and security situation in the camps is inadequate. Women and girls constantly live in fear.

A few days ago, I met Ramicha, a young girl in the Rohingya camps who loves creating henna art. When her neighbours ask her to apply henna, she feels happy to adorn the hands of young girls and women. She loves being appreciated for her art. Like Ramicha, over 400,000 children are living in the Rohin-gya camps. Despite the lack of things to do, children have found many ways to continue to laugh and live.

The Rohingya camps are examples of how even significant efforts by the Bangladesh government and international community are still far from sufficient to meet the basic needs of displaced people. The global scenario is not any better than this.

This is the situation in which the world observed World Refugee Day, which fell on June 20. This year’s theme, “Solidarity with Refugees”, calls for actionable support beyond mere words. Solidarity means keeping our doors open, celebrating refugees’ strengths and achievements, and reflecting on the challenges they face.

We urge the global community to truly demonstrate solidarity with the Rohingya community, who are facing very difficult challenges every day in refugee camps.

International stakeholders, the philanthropic community, and private sector actors should increase financial aid to these people so that more sustainable and impactful support can be provided.

While food, healthcare, safety, and fundamental rights must be provided, we must prepare them for the next phase of their lives. Education, livelihoods, and skills development are crucial now to develop the young Rohingya population so that when they voluntarily return to their country, they will have the suitable skill sets to contribute economically and socially.

Recently, the conflict inside Myanmar has reached new heights. This conflict is causing countless human tragedies, and it must be brought to an end. The global community should put more effort into ending this conflict and bringing peace to Myanmar so that all the displaced people can return to their homes and live safe and dignified lives.

By taking these tangible steps, the global community can move beyond rhetoric to enact meaningful changes, embodying true solidarity with refugees and honouring their resilience and contributions. – The Daily Star/Asia News Network

Hasina Rahman is country director of the International Rescue Committee.

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refugee , Rohingya , Bangladesh


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