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Dhaka Tribune

Burma Campaign: UK aid to Rohingya £27.6m, almost half of 2020

An appeal for nearly $1 billion to help Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is more than a third funded, the head of the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday

Update : 19 May 2021, 09:56 PM

The Burma Campaign UK on Wednesday said that the British government has announced “shocking” cuts to its aid in support of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

The £27.6 million announced by the UK government amounts to a 42% cut in aid to Rohingya refugees compared to what the government contributed in October 2020, and less than a quarter of what the UK contributed in 2019, it said in its website on Wednesday.

The statement, dated on Tuesday but distributed on Wednesday, made no mention of the fact that it amounts to a cut of around 42% in aid to Rohingya refugees, said the organization.

“Even in a climate where aid cuts were expected due to the government’s broken promise of delivering 0.7% of GNI [Gross National Income] in aid, this is still shocking,” said Karin Valtersson, campaigns officer at Burma Campaign UK.

Also Read - ED: The world needs to pay up to ease the Rohingya crisis

“The Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are genocide survivors, they are some of the most vulnerable people on the planet, many are survivors of sexual violence, of torture, of having witnessed family members including children being killed by the Burmese army,” she said.

The Rohingya fled genocide at the hands of the Burma military in 2017 and the refugee camp is the largest in the world. According to official figures, over 880,000 refugees reside in the camp, and over half are children.

The announcement of the slashing of support for the Rohingya refugees comes at the same time as Burma Campaign UK warns of an overall cut to the Burma aid budget. The aid for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is not part of the Burma aid budget.

Poverty levels are rising steeply in Burma as the people are bravely opposing the military coup and at the same time are suffering the consequences of military brutality and an economic crash due to both the coup and the Covid epidemic.

File photo: Rohingya relocation from Cox's Bazar camps to Bhashan Char island in Noakhali | Dhaka Tribune

The military coup has made it even more unlikely for the Rohingya to be able to return to Burma in the short-term, as the general that led the genocide against them, Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, is now the leader of the country. Instead of cutting aid to the Rohingya camps, the international community, including the British government, should work with Bangladesh to plan for a protracted refugee crisis with decent shelter and living conditions for the Rohingya.

“Over half of the refugees in the camp are children, and they are living in squalid conditions with not enough access to sanitation or hygiene, and very little education. The camp is fenced in by barbed wire and the security in the camp is deteriorating. The living conditions of these children are unimaginable as they are and these cuts will make their situation even worse”, said Karin Valtersson.

The way in which the UK government releases aid spending figures year on year makes it hard to do precise year on year comparisons. According to Burma Campaign UK research, the aid allocation to the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh since the genocide of 2017 is as follows: £129m in 2017-2018; £117m in 2019; £47.5m in 2020; and £27.6m in 2021.

UN Rohingya appeal receives $340m in funding

An appeal for nearly $1 billion to help Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is more than a third funded, the head of the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday, as officials and refugees called on donors not to forget the crisis, reports Reuters.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told a UN briefing that donors had so far pledged $340 million for the 2021 programme, meaning it is currently 36% funded, without naming the countries. The US mission in Geneva said it was providing nearly $155 million in new humanitarian assistance.

"It is important that the Rohingya crisis is not forgotten as action is taken hopefully to address the political crisis that is affecting Myanmar now," Grandi said.

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