British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Thursday urged the world not to “turn away from Rohingya’s suffering” as he announced £47.5 million ($62 million) in UK aid to support 860,000 Rohingya refugees and help Bangladesh to deal with coronavirus and natural disasters.
The move follows UK sanctions on two generals in the Myanmar military who were found by an independent UN investigation to be responsible for what amounts to ethnic cleansing.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar since 2017 due to systemic violence.
The British aid money will support hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people with food, water, health care, and sanitation, as well as counselling for those who have suffered trauma from the violence inflicted upon them.
The aid will also improve access to education for 50,000 young people, and set up isolation and treatment centers for those suffering from coronavirus.
Raab’s latest announcement brings the UK’s aid commitment to the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh to £300 million ($262 million).
Bangladesh will be supported as it hosts the highest number of Rohingya refugees. Around 860,000 Rohingya live in overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
As well as helping them deal with the coronavirus pandemic, the UK will also help Bangladesh become more resilient to natural disasters such as flooding.
Raab said in a statement: “The people living in Cox’s Bazar face unimaginable hardship and many have been victims of violence. We have imposed sanctions on the perpetrators of this brutality, and this new funding will save lives in the camp and help Bangladesh become more resilient to disasters such as coronavirus.
“Today I urge the world not to turn away from the Rohingya’s suffering and to take the action necessary to allow them to safely return to the homes they fled in terror.”
The UK is co-hosting an international virtual conference on the Rohingya crisis alongside the US, EU, and the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, to raise funds for the humanitarian response.
The UN estimates that it needs $1 billion to help Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh this year, but less than half of that amount has been raised so far.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the UK minister for South Asia and the Commonwealth, will say at the conference that moves must be made to allow the voluntary, safe, and dignified return of Rohingya to their homes in Myanmar.
As well as those living in Bangladesh, there are up to 150,000 Rohingya refugees living in other countries in the region, and around 600,000 in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar’s forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing their number in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.