NEW YORK - International donors raised nearly $600 million Thursday to help alleviate the humanitarian suffering of the 860,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar three years ago to Bangladesh, as that country warned it cannot host them indefinitely.
"The problem was created by Myanmar, and its solution must be found by Myanmar," Bangladesh's State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam told the virtual donor's conference. "Bangladesh is not in a position to continue to take the burden anymore. The Rohingya must return to their country of origin as soon as possible."
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Bangladesh has hosted the Rohingya since they fled Myanmar's northern Rakhine state in August and September 2017, after attacks by Rohingya militants against state security forces led to brutal military "clearance operations" that the U.N. said was tantamount to "ethnic cleansing."
U.N. Refugee Chief Filippo Grandi reiterated that the ultimate goal is for the Rohingya to return to Myanmar, but under the right conditions.
"We must not lose sight of solutions, and the key solution remains return - return home," Grandi said. "Responsibility for this lies chiefly with Myanmar."
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has said that the conditions are not yet conducive on the ground for the Rohingya to return in a dignified, safe and voluntary manner. The Myanmar government has not addressed root causes of the exodus, including discrimination and violence against the Rohingya, or allowing their free movement in Myanmar. There has also been no accountability for atrocity crimes committed against them.
In addition to the 860,000 Rohingya being hosted by Bangladesh, another 150,000 refugees are in Malaysia, Indonesia and India. Some 600,000 Rohingya remain in Myanmar's Rakhine State, of whom 140,000 are internally displaced.
Thursday's donor conference was co-hosted by the UNHCR, the United States, the European Union and Britain.
The United States made the largest contribution, announcing nearly $200 million in new funding, bringing its total 2020 contributions to more than $437 million for the Rohingya, and over $1.2 billion since 2017.
Several other governments also announced new pledges, with a focus on education, COVID-19 response and prevention, protection, food and health assistance.
Contributions will also go toward expanding activities in northern Rakhine State to create the conditions for the return of the refugees and to alleviate pressure on host communities in Bangladesh.