UN launches $1bln Rohingya refugee appeal

Rohingya children wait for food handouts distributed by a Turkish aid agency at Thaingkhali refugee camp Bangladesh. – AP

Complementing Bangladesh's continuing efforts, the 2018 appeal aimed to bring together over 100 United Nations agencies and national and worldwide non-governmental organisations to ensure that refugees and host communities receive the life-saving assistance, protection and the support they desperately need.

The UN has appealed for $951 million to meet the needs of almost 900,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

The UN says the funds will help about 1.3 million people.

The UN estimates that more than 670,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since last August, when fighting broke out between Rohingya militants and security forces in the western state of Rakhine. The UN stressed, however, that efforts must remain focused on securing the safe return to Myanmar of those displaced.

Myanmar and Bangladesh were supposed to start repatriation of Rohingya refugees in late January but many are reluctant to return to a place without guarantees of basic rights and safety.

State Minister Alam was addressing the launching event of "Joint Response Plan for Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis", jointly organised by UNHCR, IOM and OCHA in Geneva on Friday.

But, he added, those talks "have continued".

"We have to take this thing one step at a time", he said, reiterating the need for humanitarian assistance while repatriation negotiations play out. Such criteria are hard to meet for most Rohingya who do not have official documents as they are considered illegal immigrants and remain stateless, despite residing in Burma for generations.

He said the solutions to this crisis lie inside Myanmar, and conditions that will allow refugees to return home must be established.

"We know that the ultra-nationalist Buddhists have their own Facebooks and are really inciting a lot of violence and a lot of hatred against the Rohingya or other ethnic minorities", Yanghee Lee said, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, told BBC News.

Attorney General Christian Porter has shot down a bid by Australian lawyers to prosecute Aung San Suu Kyi on crimes against humanity.

Facebook had not immediately responded to the criticism on Monday, but the company has previously said that they were on the process of removing hate speech in Myanmar and removing people who constantly shared offensive content regarding the issue. "These 374 will be the first batch of the repatriation", Myint Thu said at a news conference in the capital, Naypyitaw.

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