Fate of Rohingya Refugees Discussed by IOM Chief and Bangladesh Prime Minister

Posted: 
07/17/18
Themes: 
Humanitarian Emergencies, Refugee and Asylum Issues, Rohingya Crisis

Dhaka/Cox’s Bazar - Almost a million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh face a triple threat of extreme weather, funding shortfalls and uncertainty about their future, William Lacy Swing, head of the UN Migration Agency, IOM, said today.

Director General Swing said it was crucial for the world to remain focused on the crisis, as a "failure to do so would have tragic outcomes for the nearly a million Rohingya refugees sheltering in Bangladesh." 

He made the remarks after reviewing progress by IOM and partners in managing the world’s largest refugee settlement in Cox’s Bazar discussions with Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka and an earlier meeting on Thursday with Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

"The Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar are in danger of becoming the wretched of the earth, homeless and without a future," he said, adding, "The world must rally to support them."

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stated, "The wellbeing of the Rohingyas is our concern while they are here (in Cox’s Bazar Bangladesh)."

She also underscored the enormity of the impact that so many refugees are having on the local population and the need for global solidarity to find a solution to their plight and humanitarian aid to support them and the surrounding host communities.

Ambassador Swing previously visited Cox’s Bazar in October 2017, less than three months into a violent crisis which has sent more than 700,000 people fleeing over the border from Myanmar since late August 2017.

The Rohingya now live in desperately cramped conditions on bare sandy slopes, with only bamboo and tarpaulin shelters to protect them from the elements. All this in an area that suffers two cyclone seasons yearly and some of the heaviest monsoon conditions in the world.

Ambassador Swing noted the major improvements to the camps’ management and infrastructure carried out by IOM, and an entire spectrum of other UN agencies, NGOs as well as other organizations and the government, including access ways, bridges, drainage, sanitation and improved shelters.

However, as monsoon rains turned many hillsides to mud, Ambassador Swing warned that with just one quarter of joint funding appeal for the entire response met so far, much of the progress made in recent months was at serious risk of collapsing. That, he said, would create yet another life-threatening disaster for the Rohingya community.

Ambassador Swing, who met young mothers from the refugee and local Bangladeshi host community who had recently given birth at an IOM medical facility in the heart of the sprawling mega-camp stressed the vital role that such health services played for people in Cox’s Bazar whether refugee or local residents.

“Everyone must recognize, in addition to the refugees’ needs, the tremendous impact this crisis is having on the host community,” he said.

IOM has been working in Cox’s Bazar providing medical care to the local community long before the crisis which began last August, he noted.

“All mothers – refugees and locals – should have access to safe, hygienic facilities to give birth and it’s profoundly worrying that funding shortages are now threatening these crucial maternity services which are making such differences to the lives of women and babies from all backgrounds.”

Ambassador Swing praised the great hospitality of the local community and the government and people of Bangladesh as a whole in supporting the Rohingya refugees in what is now one of the world’s largest humanitarian responses.

“The world must recognize the hugely generous support that the Bangladesh government and host community here in Cox’s Bazar has offered these refugees who arrived in such desperate conditions with nothing.”

For more information please contact

Leonard Doyle at IOM HQ, Email: ldoyle@iom.int, Tel: +41 792857123
Fiona MacGregor, IOM Cox’s Bazar, Email: fmacgregor@iom.int, Tel: +88 0 1733 335221

  • IOM DG William Swing meets new mothers from the Rohingya refugee and local communities. Photo: IOM