DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — The head of the U.N. refugee agency urged the international community on Wednesday not to forget more than 1 million Rohingya refugees who are living in sprawling camps in Bangladesh after fleeing from neighboring Myanmar.
Filippo Grandi, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, said he visited the camps near the border with Myanmar and a remote island where 28,000 refugees have been relocated to ensure that their plight is not forgotten amid the crises in Ukraine and Afghanistan.
Grandi is finishing a five-day visit to Bangladesh during which he met refugees, government officials, diplomats and donors.
The UNHCR says only 13% of the $881 million needed to support the refugees for the year has been realized as of this month.
“This is why I am here, to try to shine a spotlight on Bangladesh, its people, and the Rohingya refugees it has been hosting for decades, and to remind the international community of the importance of their support,” he told reporters in Dhaka.
Grandi said the long-term solution for the Rohingya remains in Myanmar.
“The Rohingya refugees I met reiterated their desire to return home when conditions allow. The world must work to address the root causes of their flight and to translate those dreams into reality,” Grandi said.
More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled from Buddhist-majority Myanmar to refugee camps in Bangladesh after August 2017, when the Myanmar military launched a clearance operation in response to attacks by a rebel group. Myanmar security forces have been accused of mass rapes, killings and the burning of thousands of homes.
The Rohingya are not recognized as citizens in Myanmar, rendering them stateless, and face other forms of state-sanctioned discrimination and violence.
Bangladesh has tried at least twice to begin sending refugees back to Myanmar, but they have refused to go, citing continuing danger.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina says Myanmar must take the refugees back but that her government will not force them to return.