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Rohingya Refugees

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd May 2018.

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Photo of Carol Monaghan Carol Monaghan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Education) 12:00 am, 23rd May 2018

What steps her Department is taking to support vulnerable children in Rohingya refugee camps during the monsoon season.

Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

What steps her Department is taking to protect Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh from the effects of the monsoon season.

Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown

What steps her Department is taking to protect Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh from the effects of the monsoon season.

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)

Up to 200,000 Rohingya are living in areas at risk of flooding and collapse during the rainy season. We are working with the Bangladesh Government and humanitarian partners on preparedness, including improved shelters, water and sanitation, vaccination campaigns and pre-positioning of emergency supplies.

Photo of Carol Monaghan Carol Monaghan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Education)

Last August, Myanmar soldiers systematically brutalised and raped young Rohingya women. Nine months on, and in the middle of the monsoon season, many of those young girls are now giving birth to babies conceived as a result of rape. As these girls are often shunned by their communities, what support is the UK Government providing to these vulnerable girls and their babies?

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)

The hon. Lady is right to raise this issue. Some 16,000 women may be caught up in this. We have deployed a specialist maternity worker to be there. In addition, we are working with our partners to support Rohingya women who were raped and are pregnant. The deployment includes training of medical specialists, psycho-social support, clinical management of rape, and emergency obstetric care. This is all being provided despite the difficulty of the monsoons and other circumstances.

Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

Given the greatly increased risk of waterborne diseases facing the Rohingya during the monsoon season, what steps is the Department taking to make sure that as many people as possible are vaccinated?

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)

There are two issues here: first, work needs to continue to ensure that latrines and waters are as safe as possible, and secondly, an extensive vaccination campaign is already being undertaken. The United Kingdom is a major contributor to the vaccination programme.

Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown

When the International Development Committee visited the refugee camps, we were told that non-governmental organisations had identified land that could be made available to them for the safety of the Rohingya refugees. What representations have the Government made to the Government of Bangladesh to ensure that that land is released, and that refugees are not put on an unsuitable island?

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)

Regular representations are made about this. The hon. Gentleman is right: a certain amount can be done at Cox’s Bazar to strengthen fortifications in relation to the forthcoming cyclones, but the land itself is difficult. Some have already been moved out, but we do make representations as well about the unsuitable nature of the island that is sometimes proposed.

Photo of David Evennett David Evennett Conservative, Bexleyheath and Crayford

Now that the UK is providing 10.5% of the total budget set out in the humanitarian joint response plan, will my right hon. Friend advise and update the House on what he is doing to get other countries to step up to do their bit?

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)

First, may I congratulate my old friend on his recent award, which will please all of us, for his long service and devotion to this House and its duties? We are very proud of our record in relation to being a major donor. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced a further £70 million on 7 May to help with the current crisis, but my right hon. Friend Sir David Evennett is right: we need to make sure that we continue to ask other donors to step up, and it is a regular part of our briefings and contact with other donor nations.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley

We witnessed the precarious conditions in which many of the refugees are living in Cox’s Bazar; it was quite appalling. If the monsoon is devastating for the region, will my right hon. Friend redouble his efforts to ensure that land is made available, as well as emergency housing? Pushing them on to an island is totally unacceptable.

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)

To answer my hon. Friend, our sense is that as far as possible, preparations are being made both by the Bangladesh Government and the international community to meet the anticipated and expected conditions. Bangladesh has an excellent record on dealing with emergency crises caused by weather. No one can say, if something exceptional happens, what the response will be, but all preparations have been made. However, he is right: the nature of the land is extremely difficult and we must continue to try to urge that as many people as possible are moved to the safest possible areas.

Photo of Paul Masterton Paul Masterton Conservative, East Renfrewshire

Carol Monaghan was right to raise the issues of pregnant women, new mothers and small babies, who are particularly vulnerable to issues of hygiene and sanitation, so will the Minister assure me that those will be key priorities for aid spending in this area?

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)

I can reassure my hon. Friend that as much as possible is being done in relation to this. UK-supported cholera, measles and diphtheria vaccination campaigns will help to provide protection against some of the most common diseases in the camps, and this is very much on people’s minds at such a vulnerable time.