A Rohingya refugee girl at a World Vision nutrition centre in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: World Vision
MISSISSAUGA, ON - Today, World Vision Canada, alongside more than 40 other humanitarian and civil society agencies, is voicing strong concerns following plans announced by the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh to repatriate more than 2,200 Rohingya refugees on November 15. The agencies' joint statement stresses that the involuntary return of refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar, where their lives and safety remain at grave risk, is a violation of fundamental refugee protection principles.
Child protection must be a top priority, says World Vision, Canada's largest humanitarian and development organization. Refugees have shared that they are terrified about what will happen to them if they are forced to return to Myanmar. They are calling for stronger assurances to be made, saying that the extreme human rights violations they have suffered need to stop and those responsible for the violence should be brought to justice.
"Refugee children are hearing talk about the repatriation and they're very afraid," says Fred Witteveen, National Director of World Vision Bangladesh. "Most children here witnessed or experienced horrific violence as they fled from Myanmarand their memories are still painfully fresh. They are asking our staff questions about their future, and we don't have answers for them. We are calling on the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar to ensure that children are protected, and that any repatriation is conducted in a safe, voluntary and dignified manner."
World Vision is also urging the Government of Canada to continue supporting the rights of refugees. "Canada has shown leadership by providing life-saving support and by advocating for the rights and protection of refugees on the global stage, particularly for women and girls," says Lindsay Gladding, Director of Humanitarian Emergency Affairs at World Vision Canada. "Canada can continue to provide global leadership by urging the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar to stand by their commitments that any returns will be safe, voluntary and dignified."
Joint inter-agency letter to the international community: HERE
Video clips of Rohingya refugees sharing their views on forced repatriation: HERE
- Children comprise more than half of the 900,000 refugees living in Cox's Bazar.
- World Vision has served more than 265,000 refugees since September, 2017, delivering life-saving assistance including child protection, nutrition, and water and sanitation programs.
- With funding from the Government of Canada, World Vision operates five child-friendly spaces.