Bangladesh’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam said the Rohingyas must return to Myanmar as soon as possible
Donors have pledged $597 million as humanitarian response to address the 52% funding gap to support Bangladesh in providing life-saving assistance to the forcibly displaced Rohingyas stranded in the country.
The European Union announced a contribution of €96 million (more than $113.49 million) at a conference of donors and stakeholders on Thursday.
The United Kingdom had announced £47.5 million ($62.14 million) just ahead of the virtual conference in new aid to support 860,000 Rohingyas and help Bangladesh deal with Covid-19 and natural disasters.
Besides, other donors committed to pledge the rest of the amount as assistance to the Rohingya fund.
The UK, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) brought the international community together at the virtual event to raise much-needed funds for the humanitarian response.
Representing Bangladesh at the conference, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam said, "The Rohingyas must return to their country Myanmar as soon as possible."
The summit's co-hosts discussed the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingyas and other displaced people to their homes or to a place of their choosing. Adding that the crisis requires a regional solution, they termed it a crisis and tragedy of human rights.
Given that it has been more than three years since the latest phase of the crisis began in August 2017, the co-hosts urged the countries to increase assistance for Rohingyas, host communities, and internally displaced people in Myanmar.
Addressing the global community, UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab said, "Today, I urge the world not to turn away from the Rohingya's suffering and to take the action necessary for allowing them to safely return to the homes they fled in terror."
Among the donors, the UK's new support brings its total aid commitment to the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh – which began in 2017 – to nearly £300 million, according to the country's Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).
It includes £37.5 million to provide humanitarian assistance in Cox's Bazar and £10 million in support for Bangladesh to help the country respond to the novel coronavirus and natural disasters, such as flooding.
At the event, FCDO Minister for South Asia and the Commonwealth, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon reiterated that steps must be taken to ensure voluntary, safe and dignified return of the Rohingyas to their homes in Myanmar.
International aid agencies have been providing funds since the beginning of the Rohingya influx in 2017, supporting Bangladesh in offering vital assistance to the forcibly displaced Myanmar citizens.
But as the years have rolled on without much progress towards an effective and sustainable Rohingya repatriation process, the funding gap seen in the previous two years has widened this year.
The UN appealed for more than $1 billion in aid to meet the humanitarian needs of the Rohingyas in Bangladesh this year, but as of 17 October, donors have contributed less than half that amount.
The deadly Covid-19 pandemic has made the already significant funding gap much worse, said a recent statement from the UNHCR. The gap is hitting the country at a crucial moment as it reels from the pandemic's impacts.
Global funding for the Rohingyas had a gap of more than 30% in 2018 and 2019, but it reached around 52% in 2020. International donors provided only $509.95 million till October, but the Inter-Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) had sought $1,058 million from the donors, including $181 million for Covid-19 response.
Saikat Biswas, ISCG coordinator in Cox's Bazar, told The Business Standard, "Under the Joint Response Plan for Rohingyas, the ISCG seeks funding from the donors for providing humanitarian assistance.
"The conference was organised just to raise the issue of the huge funding gap this year."
'Ensure Rohingya children's right to education'
Some 860,000 Rohingyas live in overcrowded camps in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, without formal education or work opportunities. Coronavirus has made the situation in the packed and unsanitary camps even more desperate.
Governments participating in Thursday's fundraising conference for the Rohingya humanitarian crisis should insist that Myanmar and Bangladesh ensure Rohingya children's right to education, the Human Rights Watch said on Thursday in a letter to the conference hosts.
The majority of Rohingya children, both in Myanmar's Rakhine State and at refugee camps in Bangladesh, are barred from formal education.
"This entire generation of Rohingya children is being deprived of education and there is no end in sight to the status quo of gross discrimination in both Myanmar and Bangladesh," said Bill Van Esveld, associate children's rights director at the Human Rights Watch.
"Donor governments should demand a paradigm shift to fulfill this basic human right of quality education, with the full involvement of the Rohingya community," he added.
After the conference, a telephonic press briefing was held where the speakers discussed the outcomes of the conference, including efforts to address the dire humanitarian crisis, and to increase assistance to respond to the plight of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the region, as well as internally displaced people in Myanmar, said the UNHCR.
Richard Albright, deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the US Department of State; Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, minister for South Asia and the Commonwealth at the UK's FCDO; Janez Lenarčič, commissioner for Crisis Management in the European Commission; and Indrika Ratwatte, director of UNHCR's Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific were present in the conference.