Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie on Monday visited the world’s largest refugee settlement, home to nearly one million Rohingya Muslims, in a bid to put their plight back in the headlines ahead of a United Nations $920 million funding appeal.
More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Buddhist-dominated Myanmar 18 months ago in the wake of a army crackdown described as “ethnic cleansing” by UN investigators and they are now living in camps in neighbouring Bangladesh with no sign of moving.
A spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said Jolie, a special envoy for the organisation, would spend three days visiting the camps to “assess” the needs of the Rohingya and the challenges that Bangladesh faced as a host country.
Jolie, 43, will also meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has garnered global praise for committing not to repatriate any Rohingya unwillingly, and the Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen.
The UNHCR spokesman said Jolie’s talks would centre around “the need for safe and sustainable solutions to the plight of one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, the Rohingya”.
The spokesman said the visit came ahead of the launch of a new appeal seeking to raise $920 million to continue meeting the basic needs of the Rohingya. Last year U.N. agencies launched a $950.8 million (Dh3.37 billion) appeal for the Rohingya influx.
While this was Jolie’s first visit to Bangladesh, she met Rohingya refugees in Myanmar in 2015 and India in 2006.
The Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC), a government organisation created to deal with the Rohingya crisis, welcomed Jolie’s visit.
“[Jolie] will definitely have a message to take back from here. We hope that the humanitarian community understands the kind of crisis the Rohingya are in through her,” RRRC commissioner Abul Kalam.