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Refugees and Human Rights

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:06 pm on 24th January 2018.

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Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development) 2:06 pm, 24th January 2018

The honest truth is that people are having to recognise that we are talking about a long-term, protracted refugee stay in Bangladesh. There is no quick return. We cannot ask people to return to a situation after they were expelled with maximum force, violence and horror. Although the agreement between the Governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh to return people over a two-year period is a welcome sign of intent, it cannot possibly have any serious basis unless we know that people are going to be safe. People cannot be returned on any other basis. The honest truth is that we have to be prepared for this to take time. We are pushing not only for the work that we do in Cox’s Bazar itself, but for a role for the international community in monitoring any return, with the UNHCR taking the lead.

We are one of the biggest donors to addressing the crisis. We have provided an additional £59 million since August and our aid is making a huge difference on the ground. The first tranche of funding to our partners includes support for emergency shelter for more than 130,000 people and counselling and psychological support for survivors of sexual violence. That is not an add-on to work that is already done. Counselling those women who have been victims of gender-based violence is absolutely crucial. We and other parts of the international community now give much more attention to psychological support for those who have been caught up in it. We are already co-ordinating work on the ground. We do not have as many people there as we would like. It takes time to get people in, but it is a matter of great concern and interest to us.