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Since August 2017 about 750,000 Muslim Rohingya refugees have fled violence in Rakhine State, Burma, into Bangladesh. Over 900,000 are now living in highly congested conditions around Cox’s Bazaar. The UN makes this assessment of the situation:

Basic assistance has been provided, living conditions in the camps have improved somewhat and disaster risk mitigation measures have been largely successful. However, despite progress, the Rohingya remain in an extremely precarious situation. The root causes of their plight in Myanmar have not been addressed and their future is yet uncertain. Refugees have access to the basics, such as food and health care, but they are still extremely vulnerable, living in highly challenging circumstances, exposed to the monsoon elements and dependent on aid.

A new Joint Response Plan was launched in February 2019, requesting US$920.5 million to provide life-saving assistance to 1.2 million people, including Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar to Bangladesh and local host communities. As of 4 September, the appeal was 37.6% funded. The refugees were hit hard by monsoon rains earlier this summer.

The international community has praised Bangladesh’s willingness to take in the refugees, but it is anxious they return home as soon as possible. However, international actors have insisted that there should be no forcible returns.

Humanitarian agencies are also concerned that the Bangladeshi authorities have been building facilities on an unsuitable, remote, cyclone-prone island, Bhasan Char, for 100,000 of the refugees. All the indications are that refugees do not want to be sent there but Bangladeshi government officials, worried about rising tensions between locals and refugees, have suggested that they may be compelled to do so.

The UK Government supports the UN position that a full assessment should be conducted of Bhasan Char before any relocation is considered. It has said: “We have made clear to the Government of Bangladesh that any relocation of refugees must be safe, dignified and meet international principles and standards.” The UK has provided £129 million in funding since August 2017 for food security, nutrition, shelter, health, protection, water, hygiene promotion and sanitation.

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