United Nations experts and human rights figures have called on the Bangladesh government to immediately dismantle the barbed wire fence that trapped people trying to escape a deadly fire in Rohingya camps.
‘Nothing justifies constructing barbed wire fences around places where human beings live,’ said the former UN special rapporteur on the situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, according to a press release issued by Remove the Fence movement on Tuesday.
‘I was utterly shocked to see barbed wire fences being constructed during my last visit to Cox's Bazar in January 2020.’
Fire engulfed parts of the Kutupalong refugee camp on March 22, killing at least 15 people.
Panicked Rohingyas were forced to squeeze through narrow entrances and cut through the fences.
More than 50,000 people had their homes destroyed.
Remove the Fence stated that the Bangladeshi authorities embarked on plans for barbed wire fencing in September 2019 justifying the army-led project by claiming ‘security’ concerns.
The objective was to restrict the movement of Rohingyas to the camp areas. By the beginning of 2021, 80 per cent of the fencing had been completed, involving over 142km of fencing, it said.
Eric Schwarz, president of Refugees International, said ‘The Bangladesh government should immediately remove the fencing and put humanitarianism back at the centre of the Rohingya response.’
A number of well-known international aid agencies, including Save the Children, Action Aid, Christian Aid, World Vision, VSO and others, issued a statement highlighting the problems created by the barbed wire fence during the devastating fire.
Tun Khin, the president of British Rohingya Organisation in the United Kingdom, said: ‘Aid agencies said they were horrified when they heard refugees were trapped and unable to reach safety because of the barbed wire fence. This fence must go.’
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