DHAKA — American movie star Angelina Jolie concluded her visit to Bangladesh with a call for sustained support for Rohingya refugees and for Myanmar to take the necessary steps to end their displacement and statelessness.
Jolie, a special envoy for the U.N.’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, visited the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar ahead of a fundraiser next week organized by the agency to raise more than $920 million in aid for the sprawling camps and the local communities they have impacted.
“Until the Rohingya refugees can voluntarily return home to Myanmar, we have a collective responsibility to ensure that they can continue to live dignified lives in Bangladesh,” she said at a press conference on Tuesday in Kutupalong, the world’s largest and most densely populated refugee settlement.
She said the world must not turn away from the more than 1 million Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh, the UNHCR said in a press release on Thursday.
Jolie held official meetings with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday in Dhaka during which she expressed the UNHCR’s gratitude to the people and government for their generosity in receiving more than 700,000 refugees since August 2017.
Momen reportedly urged Jolie to organize a mega event in Hollywood in an effort to mobilize public support and to highlight the plight and rights of the Rohingya community.
Jolie began her three-day visit on Monday in the Chakmarkul and Kutupalong refugee camps, where she heard testimonies from Rohingya women, children and men who have endured persecution and discrimination.
In its press release, the UNHCR said Jolie urged continued support for those who have been displaced until Myanmar shows a genuine commitment to ending a decades-long cycle of violence and displacement.
During her visit, Rohingya refugees were seen holding placards with their demands.
One of the placards said: “Education for all. Why not for Rohingya? Help us to build our future. Please, do not deprive us from education.”
Jolie said that without an urgent expansion and strengthening of educational opportunities the future of a generation of Rohingya children would be at risk. And while recognizing efforts to provide schooling, she said they remained “limited” and called for programs that can lead to recognized qualifications.
Md Abul Kalam, head of Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission, told The Irrawaddy recently that Bangladesh was allowing education for “forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals” but only in the Myanmar and English languages.
Jolie also visited a transit center for newly arrived refugees and a hospital for women and girls.
While in Dhaka, she visited two museums — the Liberation War Museum and the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum — where she viewed exhibitions about the country’s history, including its own experience of large-scale displacement.
Special envoys represent the UNHCR at the diplomatic level with a focus on major forced displacement crises.
This was Jolie’s first visit to Bangladesh. She met with forcibly displaced Rohingya during a visit to Myanmar in 2015 and to India in 2006.