Rohingya Women

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th October 2018.

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Photo of Vicky Foxcroft Vicky Foxcroft Opposition Whip (Commons) 12:00 am, 10th October 2018

If she will provide additional funding to support and protect Rohingya women living in refugee camps.

Photo of Sandy Martin Sandy Martin Labour, Ipswich

If she will provide additional funding to support and protect Rohingya women living in refugee camps.

Photo of Rosie Duffield Rosie Duffield Labour, Canterbury

If she will provide additional funding to support and protect Rohingya women living in refugee camps.

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)

DFID supports organisations that help Rohingya women and has committed £129 million to the crisis overall. A third of our recent £70 million allocation is being spent on protection services, including women’s centres, emergency nutrition and midwifery care and support for survivors of gender-based violence. We will continue to explore additional funding options.

Photo of Vicky Foxcroft Vicky Foxcroft Opposition Whip (Commons)

Following what the UN referred to as a “frenzy of sexual violence” against Rohingya women and girls, surely the Secretary of State will agree that it is wholly unacceptable that protection services for gender violence have received only one third of the required funding under the UN’s joint response plan. What steps is his Department taking to fill this funding gap?

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 have two things to say in response to the hon. Lady’s most appropriate question. First, we do recognise that this appeal is underfunded. We are in the lead in relation to this and we urge other donors to come forward. Secondly, she should be aware of the care with which United Kingdom money has been used to support women in the circumstances that she has described: 30 child-friendly spaces; 19 women’s centres; and 19 sexual and reproductive health clinics. I have seen these at Kutupalong camp and I know how well used they are by women who need counselling and support. The United Kingdom has been very clear about the importance of this as part of the support that we have provided. [Interruption.]

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

Order. I remind the House very gently that we are discussing the plight of Rohingya women, which is one of the most egregious plights of any people anywhere in the world and should be treated with appropriate respect.

Photo of Sandy Martin Sandy Martin Labour, Ipswich

Hundreds of thousands of people have died in what has been widely regarded as ethnic cleansing. What assurances have the UK Government sought from the Myanmar Government that the Rohingya women who return will be safe, following the memorandum of understanding with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and should they not include a promise of citizenship?

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)

When we talk to any of those in the camps, it is quite clear that they will return to Myanmar/Burma only when they feel that it is safe to do so and when they are citizens and their citizenship has been accepted. At present, I do not think that we have any confidence that any women returning to Burma under any memorandum would be in that position. Until that situation changes, the refugees will need to stay, but it is essential that those issues are dealt with in time.

Photo of Rosie Duffield Rosie Duffield Labour, Canterbury

The fact-finding mission found that this was ethnic cleansing and sexual abuse. Rape was widely found. I thank the Minister for promising to seek assurance that that is being taken care of and that those women are being supported. Is there any more detail available on that, please?

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 International Development Committee, which is led by Stephen Twigg, questioned me about that just a few weeks ago. We have details on the counselling and support that is being provided. The tragedy is that this will need to go on for some time. It seems likely that those in the camps will not be able to return soon. What is essential—the hon. Lady’s question is helpful in relation to this—is that the eye of the world does not go off this matter. The funding for the support that is needed must not be lost and people must not forget the Rohingya who are in the camps.

Photo of Antoinette Sandbach Antoinette Sandbach Conservative, Eddisbury

A large number of vulnerable Rohingya women and children still live in Rakhine province. What humanitarian assistance are the Government providing to those vulnerable women and girls?

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)

My hon. Friend is correct: there is difficulty in gaining access to the Rakhine province. It has been possible for humanitarian agencies to get into only some of the province. We have sought to reshape our programme to make sure that more support is available to those who are still in Rakhine, and it should not be forgotten that they remain in a very vulnerable position.

Photo of Mary Robinson Mary Robinson Conservative, Cheadle

These vulnerable Rohingya Muslims may be destined to spend many years as refugees in camps. In addition to the aid that has already been given, has there been any consideration of a diplomatic solution involving substantial up-front international support for refugees and for the wider region in Bangladesh to pump-prime economic and political stability?

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)

We should always preface any remarks by expressing gratitude to the Government of Bangladesh for what they have been able to do for these most vulnerable people. Every effort is being given to the sort of diplomatic solution that will provide an answer, but it is clear from the actions of the Burma Government that this will take some time. My hon. Friend is right: we need to make sure that we keep caring for those in the camps for some period of time, because the very length of their stay will mean that they face new problems, rather than those from which they fled.

Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Conservative, Witney

What support does the Department provide for Rohingya refugees who have suffered gender-based violence?

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 support that we have provided has included counselling and making available people who are able to deal with children who have been traumatised over time. It is quite clear from talking to the aid agencies on my visit that there has been an improvement in people’s condition, but of course the true horror of what they have experienced can never truly be removed until they return home.