Posted by Sazzad Khandakar
Source: Bloomberg News
Bangladesh dismissed calls from the United Nations refugee agency to accept people fleeing violence that has claimed dozens of lives in neighboring Myanmar.
“It is certainly not in the best of our interests to allow in a further influx of refugees,” Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni told reporters in Dhaka yesterday, responding to reports that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees urged the country to provide a safe haven. “We want to make sure that refugees don’t enter Bangladesh in large numbers again.”
Myanmar declared a state of emergency on June 10 in western Rakhine state, bordering Bangladesh, in a bid to end clashes between Buddhists and Muslim Rohingyas that erupted a week earlier. Bangladesh authorities have turned back boats carrying hundreds of Rohingyas, including women and children who traveled for as long as nine hours without food and water.
Bangladesh is seeking to avoid a repeat of influxes in previous decades that have left more than 200,000 Rohingyas living in or around makeshift camps. The UNHCR said in December that its ability to address the issue of Rohingyas in Bangladesh has been “particularly challenging” and the country is “not well placed to cope with this protracted refugee situation.”
The UNHCR yesterday said it was “very concerned” about reports Bangladesh had turned away people fleeing violence and sought a clarification from authorities. The UN agency asked Bangladesh to allow people in need of safety and immediate medical assistance to enter the country.
“Previously people have been allowed in to Bangladesh for medical treatment,” the UNHCR said in a statement. “We hope that such good practices will be maintained.”
The unrest began after an alleged rape prompted a mob of about 300 Rakhine Buddhists to murder 10 Muslims on June 3, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch. Myanmar imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in four towns in Rakhine and prohibited more than five people from gathering in public areas at a time, according to the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper.