Rohingya refugees in Bangaldesh

10 Mar

Three NGOs have recently released their reports documenting the pervasive human rights violations against Rohingya refugees within Bangladesh. According to Brian McCartan, a freelance journalist based in Bangkok, the recent crackdown against Rohingya refugees could be due to the lead up to the Burmese elections.

In 1978, the Rohingya, a Muslim minority living mostly in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State, were forced by the junta to escape to Bangladesh after clashes with the Buddhists in the region. Since then, the former had been denied their citizenship. Many NGOs have estimated that as many 220,000 Rohingya are currently living in Bangladesh though the latter claims the figure is as high as 400,000. Of these refugees, only 28,000 have been officially recognised by the UNHCR, thereby qualifying them for humanitarian aid.

Analysts believe this latest crackdown from the central Dhaka government sends a signal to the refugees that ‘the door is closed’.

In the report by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the organisation found that there has been an increase in Rohingya refugees gathering around the UNHCR camps in early 2009. By the middle of the year, MSF was starting to treat  many unregistered refugees who had been violently targeted by the local authorities.

The Arakan Project has since highlighted that, ‘

The recent crackdown is unprecedented as, for the first time, law enforcement agencies – the police and the BDR (Bangladesh border security forces) – are actively involved in rounding up unregistered Rohingya at their workplace, along roads, on buses and in their homes, simultaneously in all sub-districts where Rohingyas have settled’.

This is accompanied with a ‘xenophobic campaign’, which is alleged to be funded by the local political elites.

The deteriorating health impact of the unregistered Rohingya refugees has drawn concern from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). In their emergency report, it studied 100 families and received testimonies that many, especially children are suffering from hunger and malnutrition. The NGO also found deploring living conditions such as the lack of clean water and sanitation which could lead to infectious diseases.

These organisations are urging the Bangladesh government to stop the persecution, arbitrary arrest and expulsion of Rohingya refugees. MSF and PHR are also demanding the UNHCR to take a more proactive role in protecting the rights of Rohingya.

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