South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador and actor Cate Blanchett has urged Myanmar to create decent conditions in Rakhine sate for the safe return of Rohingyas saying the solution to Rohingya crisis lies with Myanmar.

“Ultimately, I think, the key here is to address their statelessness,” she told the news agency in an interview mentioning that much more needs to be done to make sure there are decent conditions for the refugees to return safely when they want to.

The Hollywood actor, who was named a UNHCR goodwill ambassador in May 2016, said the present conditions in Rakhine state are clearly not conducive to the safe and voluntary return or dignified return of the refugees who have fled to Bangladesh.

There are unending reports of violence and intimidation against the Rohingya communities. “I heard some of those stories myself whilst I was in Bangladesh,” she added.

Cate, who has recently travelled to Bangladesh with UNHCR to draw attention to the situation of the Rohingyas, said UNHCR and its partners are calling for unrestricted access to Rakhine state so that they can assess conditions and the long-term possibility of any return.


Responding to a question, she said the international community, private sector, the public, all of them must continue to support Bangladesh in caring for these refugees, over half of whom are children.

Their resilience is incredible but more international support is urgently needed for the refugees and the host communities in Bangladesh, said Cate, who was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2007.

This is the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world. “The Rohingyas have experienced unspeakable violence and human rights abuses. Not only they are refugees — they are stateless refugees,” said the Academy Award-winning actress.

One refugee she met was an 18-year-old girl who had lost her husband and travelled alone through forests and jungles, finding her way to safety in Bangladesh with her one-year-old baby.

She and so many like her are so vulnerable; and now, as the monsoon approaches, the Bangladesh government, supported by UNHCR and its partners as well as the refugees themselves, is working flat out in a race against time to avoid an emergency within an emergency.

“I saw myself the work being done, boosting up shelters so they provide a little more protection, reinforcing stairways and vulnerable land, even trying to relocate the families living in the areas most at risk of flooding or landslides,” Cate said.

But, more is needed from the international community, from private sector, the public, from everyone, to increase the support as the refugees are in fear of landslides and floods, diseases and even loss of life.

Asked about Bangladesh’s contributions, the envoy said there is no doubt that the Bangladesh government and the host communities in Cox’s Bazar area have shouldered this enormous challenge and responded first to this crisis.

“To have such a big volume of people arriving in such a short time, to keep the borders open and provide such support is something I know UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency is hugely thankful for,” Cate said.

Asked about her role, the UNHCR envoy said she can be a witness to the situation for refugees all over the world and use whatever platform she has to bring global attention or raise money to help them.

“My role is to advocate on behalf of refugees and UNHCR. I’m passionate about it,” Cate said, adding that there are over 65 million displaced people all over the world and never has it been more urgent for the world to take note of this,” she added.


Updated On: March 27, 2018