ROHINGYA Muslims fleeing from Myanmar’s Rakhine state set up huts and other shelters at a refugee camp near the Bangladeshi town of Teknaf on Tuesday.—AFP
ROHINGYA Muslims fleeing from Myanmar’s Rakhine state set up huts and other shelters at a refugee camp near the Bangladeshi town of Teknaf on Tuesday.—AFP

COX’S BAZAAR: Nearly 125,000 mostly Rohingya refugees have entered Bangladesh since a fresh upsurge of violence in Myanmar on August 25, the United Nations said on Tuesday, as fears grow of a humanitarian crisis in the overstretched camps.

The UN said 123,600 had crossed the border in the past 11 days from Myanmar’s violence-wracked Rakhine state.

Their arrival has raised fears of a fresh humanitarian disaster as already crowded camps in Bangladesh — home to around 400,000 Rohingya Muslims before the latest crisis — struggle to cope with the influx.

Many are sleeping in the open and are in dire need of food and water after walking for days to reach safety, the UN’s main coordinator in Bangladesh said in a report.

Border officials say those fleeing face risk of landmine explosion

“There is an urgent need for emergency shelters and for land to build these shelters on,” said Vivian Tan, spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency.

“These people have walked for days. Some of them haven’t eaten for days since they left. They survived on rain water and ground water.”

Bangladesh initially tried to block the refugees, stepping up border patrols and pushing some back into Myanmar. But in recent days they appear to have largely given up trying to prevent an influx that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Tuesday was a “big burden” for Bangladesh.

Humanitarian crisis

Indonesia’s Foreign Minis­ter Retno Marsudi met Ms Hasina in Dhaka on Tuesday to discuss the Rohingya crisis including ways to ease “the burden of the Bangladesh government”.

“This humanitarian crisis shall be ended. And Indonesia is ready to contribute,” she told reporters.

Marsudi on Monday met Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi as well as army chief General Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyidaw in a bid to pressure the government to do more to alleviate the crisis.

Thousands lined up on a major highway near the border, blocking traffic, while others crammed into small shops and huts to shelter from the monsoon rains.

“We walked for three days to reach Bangladesh... Both (my daughters) are now suffering from high fever and coughing,” Rozina Khatun, a Rohingya from Myanmar, said.

At a nearby clinic run by Doctors without Borders, scores of people lined up with bullet wounds and deep scars apparently left by machetes.

Bangladeshi rights campaigner Nur Khan Liton said a “massive humanitarian crisis” was unfolding.

“People are staying in refugee camps, on the roads, school yards and under open sky. They are clearing forest to create new settlements. There is an acute crisis of water and food,” he said.

The latest unrest broke out when a Rohingya militant group allegedly launched a series of coordinated ambushes on Myanmar security posts in response to what it said was a fresh crackdown.

The Rohingya Muslims are seen as illegal immigrants in mainly Buddhist Myanmar and have suffered decades of persecution, according to rights groups.

Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2017

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