Addressing Rohingays’ statelessness is key: UNHCR envoy
UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and actor Cate Blanchett has urged Myanmar to create decent conditions in Rakhine Sate for the safe return of Rohingyas saying the solution to Rohingya crisis lies in Myanmar.
“Ultimately, I think, the key here is to address their statelessness,” she told news agency UNB in an interview mentioning that much more needs to be done to make sure there are decent conditions for the refugees to return safely when they want to.
The UNHCR envoy, who was named a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in May 2016, said the conditions right now in Rakhine state are clearly not conducive to the safe and voluntary return, or the dignified return of the refugees who have fled to Bangladesh.
She said there are unending reports of violence and intimidation against the Rohingya communities. “I heard some of those stories myself whilst I was in Bangladesh.”
Cate, who has recently travelled to Bangladesh with UNHCR to draw attention to the situation of the Rohingyas, said UNHCR and its partners are calling for unrestricted access to Rakhine state so they can assess conditions and the long-term possibility of any returns.
Responding to a question, she said the international community, private sector, the public, all of them must continue to support Bangladesh in caring for these refugees -- over half of whom children.
“Their resilience is incredible but more international support is urgently needed for the refugees and the communities in Bangladesh so generously hosting them,” said Cate who was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2007.
The UNHCR Ambassador observed that this is the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world. “The Rohingyas have experienced unspeakable violence and human rights abuses. Not only they are refugees --they are stateless refugees,” said the Academy Award-winning actress.
One refugee she met was an 18-year-old girl who had lost her husband and travelled alone through forests and jungle, finding her way to safety in Bangladesh with her one-year-old baby.
She, and so many like her, are so vulnerable - and now, as the monsoon approaches, the Bangladesh government, supported by UNHCR and partners and the refugees themselves, are working flat out in a race against time to avoid an emergency within an emergency.
“I saw myself the work being done, boosting up shelters so they provide a little more protection, reinforcing stairways and vulnerable land, even trying to relocate the families living in the areas most at risk of flooding or landslides,” Cate said.
But, she added, more is needed from the international community-- from private sector, the public, everyone – to increase efforts to support the Rohingya refugees.
Asked about Bangladesh’s contributions, the envoy said there is no doubt that the Bangladesh government and host communities in the Cox’s Bazar area have shouldered this enormous challenge and responded first to this crisis.
It has done an incredible amount to support the refugees who have fled such unspeakable violence in Myanmar, she said.
“To have such a big volume of people arrive in such a short time, to keep the borders open and provide such support is something I know UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency is hugely thankful for,” Cate said.
But now the international community needs to increase efforts to support the Bangladesh government in its work to protect the refugees and also to support the host communities, especially as the monsoon is approaching, she said.
“My first reflection was how much the government of Bangladesh and the Bangladeshi people have done to support these refugees who have fled for their lives from Myanmar,” she said describing her recent Bangladesh visit.
What struck her also was the resilience of the refugees themselves, especially as the monsoon approaches, and they are busily sandbagging their shelters, reinforcing the stairways and preparing for the rains. “They fear landslides and floods, diseases and even loss of life,” Cate said.
Asked about her role, the UNHCR envoy said as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, she can be a witness to the situation for refugees all over the world and use whatever platform she has to bring global attention or raise money to help them.
“My role is to advocate on behalf of refugees and UNHCR. I’m passionate about it,” Cate said adding that there are over 65 million displaced people all over the world and never has it been more urgent for the world to take note of this – it is in my view the biggest issue facing our species – that and climate change – it is something we should all be concerned about.