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“Safeguarding refugees' rights in Bangladesh is non-negotiable” - World Vision

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10 DECEMBER (COX’S BAZAR/YANGON) -- In commemoration of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December, the international relief NGO World Vision calls on individuals, organisations and governments to help ensure refugees in Bangladesh are honoured their basic rights as humans.

On 23 November, the Government of Bangladesh announced a bilateral agreement to start repatriating refugees, most who identify as Rohingya, to Myanmar.

“It’s a nightmare within a nightmare for many,” said Fred Witteveen, National Director for World Vision Bangladesh. “The wounds are literally quite fresh, and mostly still untreated. Many are still in shock. Our top priority remains to stabilize as much of the camp population as we can reach, and to ensure they are protected at every step- no matter where they are. The refugees find themselves in a holding space with still unclear marching orders.”

World Vision has joined other aid groups to advocate for a safe, dignified, voluntary repatriation process that is in line with international humanitarian law.

The number of refugees who have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar District over several waves has increased to more than 835,000 people, mostly women and children. More than half a million children facing urgent physical and psychological needs are living in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions that are breeding grounds for waterborne disease.

Aid workers have sought – on limited land - to find adequate space to deliver basic services in Cox’s Bazar. World Vision calls on donors and governments to uphold the rights of all persons in emergencies, especially women and children, to sufficient and safe shelter, health, sanitation, education and protection services that meet international humanitarian standards,

In Myanmar, international NGOs are still largely restricted from delivering aid in the conflict-affected northern Rakhine State. “World Vision and its partners in Myanmar are ready to serve all communities in need in Rakhine State,” said World Vision’s national director in Myanmar, Suresh Bartlett. “But we must be clear that anyone repatriated comes back voluntarily, without coercion or false promises, and that they must be protected.”

A number of international NGOs working in Myanmar, including World Vision, have called for the rights and safety of refugees to be safeguarded before returns to Rakhine State commences. “No one,” said Bartlett, “especially children whom society is tasked to protect, should live under the threat of violence. That is one right all sides can and must agree on.”

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For more information, spokespeople, photos and interviews, please contact:

Saibal Sangma | Director of Communications, World Vision Bangladesh mobile: + 88 01711543507 saibal_sangma@wvi.org | Skype: Saibal.sangma (Languages: Bengali, English)

Notes to editors

  • World Vision has been working in Bangladesh since 1972 when it started with emergency relief operations.

  • For 20 years, World Vision has had a regular field presence 67km from the affected area in Cox’s Bazar where it runs a community development program.

  • World Vision has worked in Rakhine State since 2016 on food programming and has had operations in Myanmar since 1991.

  • To date, in Bangladesh, World Vision has reached more than 140,000 individuals with food packs, tarpaulins, tents and hygiene kits. Women, adolescent and young child spaces have been set up for pregnant and lactating mothers, while more than 2,000 children are receiving psychosocial support in World Vision’s child-friendly spaces.

About World Vision

World Vision is a global Christian relief, development and advocacy organisation dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender.