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UNHCR Ambassador Cate Blanchett warns of "a race against time" to protect Rohingya refugees from upcoming monsoon rains

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UNHCR Ambassador Cate Blanchett warns of "a race against time" to protect Rohingya refugees from upcoming monsoon rains

Blanchett calls for increased international support for Rohingya refugees and host communities
21 March 2018

B-roll available and images available at

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett today warned of a “race against time” to protect Rohingya refugees from the worst impacts of the upcoming monsoon season in Bangladesh. Heavy rains, potential cyclones and adverse weather conditions are threatening to put more than one hundred thousand Rohingya refugees living in congested settlements in Cox’s Bazar district, south-eastern Bangladesh, at serious risk in the coming months. Blanchett, on return from a visit to Bangladesh this week, is calling for urgent action to support UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency - and its partners, working with the Government of Bangladesh, to avoid an “emergency within an emergency”.

Since August 2017 over 671,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have sought safety in Bangladesh. “The Rohingya refugees have already experienced targeted violence, human rights abuses and horrific journeys. They have shown unimaginable resilience and courage,” Blanchett said, speaking at the end of her visit to Kutupalong, Nyapara and Chakmarkul settlements near Cox’s Bazar this week. “But now, as the monsoon season approaches, the Government of Bangladesh, supported by UNHCR and its partners, are in race against time to ensure the refugees are as safe as they can be to deal with potential floods and landslides.”

“I’ve seen first-hand how UNHCR - with its partners and with the refugees themselves - are working flat out to avoid an emergency within an emergency in Cox’s Bazar district. Staff are on the ground distributing shelter and pre-monsoon kits to the vulnerable families, reinforcing roads, bridges, steps and other infrastructure that risk being washed away, and relocating families to safer places where land is available. But more is urgently needed to ensure refugees stay safe,” Blanchett continued.

Calling for the international community to show solidarity and share the responsibility of this crisis with Government and people of Bangladesh, Blanchett added, “The people of Bangladesh and host communities have been the first to respond to this crisis, supported by agencies like UNHCR and its partners. But I cannot stress how much more help is needed for these vulnerable stateless refugees, the majority of whom are women and children. This is the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world, the monsoons are coming and it is critical that the international community, private sector and individuals all do what they can to support these stateless refugees and the communities hosting them.”

The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority. Since violence began on 25 August 2017 in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, over 671,000 refugees have fled to Bangladesh. The Government and people of Bangladesh have shown tremendous generosity and hospitality in the face of this influx. Faced with acute risk of an emergency within the emergency, UNHCR and its partners are supporting the Bangladesh Government in Cox’s Bazar to prepare both refugee and host communities ahead of the monsoon season.

Kevin J. Allen, Head of UNHCR's emergency operation in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh said, “Bangladesh saved thousands of lives when it opened its borders and arms to Rohingya refugees. It is now critical that we stand firmly with Bangladesh and the refugees we serve to protect them from cyclonic winds and heavy rains."

UNHCR is working to build dignified and decent lives for the stateless Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, including access to healthcare, education, shelter and self-reliance. The solutions to this refugee crisis lie in Myanmar, and UNHCR has therefore called on Myanmar to create conditions in Rakhine State that would permit the safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees who voluntarily choose to return to their homes. UNHCR is calling for unfettered humanitarian access to all communities and to all areas of origin and potential return in Rakhine State and has offered to support the Government of Myanmar to rapidly implement the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.

This week, a new inter-agency donor appeal for Bangladesh announced funding requirements of US$951 million through to December 2018 to assist refugees and host communities affected by the refugee influx. UNHCR is seeking US$196.3 million to continue its work providing lifesaving assistance and protection for the Rohingya refugees supporting host communities.



For more information:

  • For enquiries related to Cate Blanchett please contact Sarah Epstein, (London) Office: + 44 203 761 9504, Mobile: +44 7572 60 10 88, [email protected]
  • UNHCR Geneva, Andrej Mahecic, Office: +41 22 739 8347, Mobile: +41 79 642 9709, [email protected]
  • UNHCR Bangladesh, Caroline Gluck, Office: + 990 341 63716-7, Mobile: +880 1872 699 849, [email protected]

Notes to editors:

An exclusive interview with UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett will be broadcast on CNN International at 14.00 EST and 17.00EST on Wednesday 21st March 2018.

More information on Cate Blanchett and UNHCR

Cate Blanchett became a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in May 2016. She has undertaken fact-finding missions to Lebanon, and Jordan, to meet refugees and stateless people who have been displaced by the Syrian conflict. Blanchett has also visited Australia to celebrate UNHCR’s ‘Human Lives, Human Rights’ campaign, which marked the 40th anniversary of the first major refugee arrival.

  • In 2016, Blanchett helped bring together a group of artists to perform an ensemble reading of Jenifer Toksvig’s poem ‘What They Took With Them’. She launched a unique “world tour” of Facebook Live events , featuring supporters across the globe highlighting the urgent need for solidarity with refugees.
  • Blanchett has spoken about the refugee crisis at the Google Zeitgeist event in 2016, and the Women in the World Conference 2015.
  • In 2015, Cate travelled to Lebanon to meet with Syrian refugees, as well as to hear testimonies from stateless people as part of her broader support for UNHCR’s #IBelong Campaign.
  • Cate has met refugee and asylum-seeker families in Brisbane who had previously been transferred by Australia to Christmas Island, Nauru and Papua New Guinea. She also visited resettled refugees and celebrated UNHCR’s ‘Human Lives, Human Rights’ campaign in Queensland, marking the 40th anniversary of the first major refugee arrival.
  • In 2017 Blanchett was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia in the General Division for her eminent service to the performing arts as an international stage and screen actor, through seminal contributions as director of artistic organizations, as a role model for women and young performers, and as a supporter of humanitarian and environmental causes.
  • In January 2018 Blanchett received the Crystal Award at the World Economic Forum in Davos for her work raising awareness about refugee issues.