Rohingya influx into Bangladesh swelled further on Tuesday with charities warning of an unfolding humanitarian crisis as Bangladesh pushes for a diplomatic solution to close the floodgates.
Aid workers scrambled to provide food and shelter to a daily stream of bedraggled refugees as about 3,70,000 ethnic minority Rohingyas had entered Bangladesh since August 25 fleeing violence and ethnic cleansing in Rakhine state of Myanmar.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday urged Myanmar to stop ‘inhuman persecution of ethnic minorities’ and take back Rohingyas saying that Bangladesh wanted friendly relations with Myanmar but would tolerate no injustice.
While visiting Kutupalang Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, she said, ‘We would stay beside the Myanmar refugees and extend all kinds of help to them as long as they cannot return to their country.’
Biometric registration of Rohingyas entered Bangladesh fleeing the ongoing violence since August 25 began Monday night for proper documentation of the Myanmar refugees.
Sweden and Britain requested a closed-door United Nations Security Council meeting on the ‘deteriorating situation’ in Myanmar’s Rakhine state diplomats said adding that the meeting might be held on Wednesday.
The ongoing violence erupted on August 25, when Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army reportedly attacked dozens of police posts and checkpoints and one military base in Rakhine and the Burma Army launched ‘clearance operations.’
The insurgent group said that they launched the attacks to pre-empt possible attacks by army and security forces on the Rohingyas.
An UN special rapporteur estimated that more than 1,000 people might already have been killed in Myanmar violence, mostly minority Rohingya Muslims.
About 3,70,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh fleeing the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Rakhine, said UN refugee agency UNHCR on Tuesday.
Bangladesh officials said that with the new arrivals the number of old and new Rohingyas reached close to 8,00,000.
Border Guard Bangladesh and foreign ministry officials estimated that another 1,00,000 persecuted Rohingyas were waiting along the border for scope to enter Bangladesh.
‘We now estimate that 3,70,000 stateless Rohingya refugees have fled into Bangladesh since 25 August. The increase in the estimated total is a result of more interagency assessment teams being able to reach more villages, hamlets and pockets where refugees have gathered,’ said UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards at a briefing in Geneva.
‘Rohingya refugees continue to arrive at Kutupalang and Nayapara camps, where UNHCR operates. With more than 70,000 refugees now in both camps, the population has more than doubled since 25 August. Both sites are beyond saturation point,’ said Edwards.
‘Some refugees who have been living in these camps are hosting up to 15 newly-arrived families in their small huts, yet new arrivals are still spilling onto the walkways under plastic sheets. We have opened up public buildings and set up large tents to accommodate the new arrivals,’ he said.
Many of the new refugees are staying in the makeshift settlements or among local Bangladeshi host communities who generously share whatever resources they have.
These spontaneous sites require proper planning to ensure basic shelter, safety and hygiene standards, he said.
Of the new arrivals about 1,50,000 took shelters at Balukhali,Kutupalang Ledha and Shamlapur makeshift camps and Kutupalang and Nayapara refugee camps, said international aid workers in Cox’s Bazar.
About 1,85,000 took shelters at spontaneous shelters at Moinar Ghona, Thangkhali, Unchiprang, Hakimpara Jamtoli, and Rubber Garden of Cox’s Bazar and 35,000 at places of host communities at Teknaf and Ukhia, they added.
Rohingyas are living here and there making makeshift shelters beside roads and highways, cutting hills and forests in bordering areas in Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban amid run out of water supplies and insufficient relief and medical services.
Cox’s Bazar additional district magistrate Khaled Mahmud, also the focal person on Rohingya issue, said that gathering of Rohingyas at the under-construction camp from different areas continued.
He said that official biometric registration of new coming Rohingyas began Monday night.
Officials said that without the registration cards, the newly arrived Rohingyas would not be allowed to avail bus, water transports and even planes and relief facilities.
Forty-year old Rohingya Moktar Ahmed was killed in a landmine explosion in Myanmar opposite to Asartoli point of Naikhyangchari upazila of Bandarban in Bangladesh early Tuesday, alleged Rohingays.
Naikhyangchari Border Guard Bangladesh battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Anwarul Azim said that he heard from Rohingyas that Lokman sustained injuries from a mine blast inside Myanmar.
Naikhyangchari union parishad chairman Taslim Iqbal said Myanmar’s Buthidong resident Lokman was taken to the Naikhyangchari upazila health complex where he succumb to the injuries.
Earlier on September 9, three unidentified Rohingya youths were killed in mine blasts in Maynmar opposite of Tumbroo point and another landmine victim Hamida Begum died at Chittagong Medical College and Hospital on the day after she sustained injuries on September 4 while fleeing to Bangladesh, locals said.
Besides two other children also sustained injured in mine blast on September 4 and bullet-injured bodies of Rohingya couple Jaker Ullah and Ayesha Begum were found near the area on September2.
Local people said that Rohingays continued to enter Bangladesh on Tuesday through different land and sea border points. They already overcrowded Kutupalang and Nayapara refugee camps who now housed Rohinagys double their capacities.
Rohingays flooded sides of Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf road as well as the Marine Drive making makeshift places with plastic sheet. Similar reports poured in from Rohingyas taking shelter at Balukhali and Kutupalang of Ukhia and Shamlapur and Shah Parir Dwip and Sabarang.
Rohinagys said that they were starving in absence of food and facing crisis of drinking water.
Local people were seen throwing away packets of biscuits, chips, in some cases puffed rice, to the Rohingays living by the Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf road and the Marine Drive.
At places of the two roads, Rohingays were seen stretching their hands for food when any vehicle passed by.
Against this backdrop two UNHCR aircraft with emergency relief supplies for Rohingyas arrived in Dhaka Tuesday morning and afternoon.
The Arakan Rohingya National Organisation in a statement on Tuesday expresses its gratitude to prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s government for standing by their beleaguered community in one of the darkest hours in the history of their people.
‘We urge more world leaders to stand beside the prime minister of Bangladesh and ensure that an UN safe zone is created to protect the Muslims of Myanmar. Already many world leaders have expressed their solid support and in the midst of an unbearable situation, there might be some last hopes left’ the statement said.
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