UN: Over 10,000 Ro­hingya have fled to Bangladesh ‘Ac­tual num­ber could be much higher’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL - DHAKA: Lit­tle to no aid

At least 10,000 Ro­hingya have ar­rived in Bangladesh in re­cent weeks af­ter flee­ing vi­o­lence in neigh­bor­ing Myan­mar, the United Na­tions said yes­ter­day. An es­ti­mated 30,000 Ro­hingya, a Mus­lim mi­nor­ity liv­ing mostly in Myan­mar, have been forced to leave their homes since a bloody crack­down by the army in the western state of Rakhine.

Bangladesh has stepped up pa­trols on the bor­der to try to stop them from en­ter­ing, but last week it said thou­sands had flooded into the coun­try, many with noth­ing but the clothes they were wear­ing. “Based on re­ports by var­i­ous hu­man­i­tar­ian agen­cies, we es­ti­mate that there could be 10,000 new ar­rivals in re­cent weeks,” said Vi­vian Tan, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency in Bangkok. “The sit­u­a­tion is fast chang­ing and the ac­tual num­ber could be much higher.”

Those in­ter­viewed by AFP in­side Bangladesh had hor­ri­fy­ing sto­ries of gang rape, torture and mur­der at the hands of Myan­mar’s se­cu­rity forces. Anal­y­sis of satellite images by Hu­man Rights Watch found hun­dreds of build­ings in Ro­hingya vil­lages have been razed. Myan­mar has de­nied al­le­ga­tions of abuse, but has also banned for­eign jour­nal­ists and in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tors from ac­cess­ing the area to in­ves­ti­gate. Myan­mar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a No­bel peace lau­re­ate, has faced a grow­ing in­ter­na­tional back­lash for what a UN of­fi­cial has said amounts to a cam­paign of eth­nic cleans­ing.

Yes­ter­day she vowed to work for “peace and na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion”, say­ing her coun­try faced many chal­lenges, but did not men­tion the vi­o­lence in Rakhine state. Ro­hingya com­mu­nity lead­ers in Bangladesh said an­other 3,000 dis­placed Ro­hingya were stranded on an is­land in the Naf River that di­vides the two coun­tries, at­tempt­ing to en­ter Bangladesh.

“They have been stuck in the is­land for al­most a week with­out suf­fi­cient food and clothes,” Abu Ghalib told AFP. But a spokesman for the Bangladesh bor­der guards said the claims could not be ver­i­fied as the is­land was not Bangladeshi ter­ri­tory. Bangladesh has re­in­forced its bor­der posts and de­ployed coast guard ships in an ef­fort to prevent a fresh in­flux of refugees. In the past two weeks, Bangladeshi bor­der guards have pre­vented hun­dreds of boats packed with Ro­hingya women and chil­dren from en­ter­ing the coun­try.

Nev­er­the­less Ro­hingya lead­ers in Bangladesh said the num­ber of ar­rivals had risen this week. But so far lit­tle or no aid has been pro­vided for the new ar­rivals with Bangladeshi au­thor­i­ties fear­ing food, medicine and shel­ter will en­cour­age more to cross the bor­der. Shinji Kubo, who heads the UN refugee agency in Bangladesh, said the new ar­rivals needed “ur­gent” help. “Ob­vi­ously these peo­ple have come from Myan­mar af­ter ter­ri­ble ex­pe­ri­ences and with­out any be­long­ings. The win­ter is ap­proach­ing. So ev­ery­one is re­ally wor­ried about their well­be­ing,” he said.

More than 230,000 Ro­hingya are al­ready liv­ing in Bangladesh, most of them il­le­gally, although around 32,000 are for­mally reg­is­tered as refugees. Tan said the UN was urg­ing the Bangladesh gov­ern­ment to al­low the Ro­hingya safe haven. “We are ready to sup­port the gov­ern­ment to pro­vide ef­fec­tive hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance for these in­di­vid­u­als in need of in­ter­na­tional pro­tec­tion,” she said. Vi­o­lence in Rakhine-home to the state­less eth­nic group loathed by many of Myan­mar’s Bud­dhist ma­jor­ity-has surged in the last month af­ter se­cu­rity forces poured into the area. It fol­lowed a se­ries of at­tacks on po­lice posts blamed on lo­cal mil­i­tants. —AFP

In this May 20, 2015, file photo, mi­grants in­clud­ing Myan­mar’s Ro­hingya Mus­lims sit on the deck of their boat as they wait to be res­cued by Acehnese fish­er­men on the sea off East Aceh, In­done­sia. —AP

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