Bangladesh Removes Rohingyas from Nearby Refugee Camp

Irrawaddy news, 1st July 2009

About 400 crude dwellings belonging to ethic Rohingyas near the Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar District in Bangladesh have been destroyed or relocated, according to officials of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) based in Dhaka.

The Bangladesh government claimed that the Rohingyas were not refugees and came to live near the refugee camp to receive benefits, said the UNHCR.

Burmese children wait for malaria test results at special clinic for malaria on May 4 in Sittwe, Arakan State, Burma. The majority of the patients treated belong to the Rohingya Muslim minority who live in Muslim neighborhoods in Sittwe. (Photo: Getty Images)

An estimated 1,000 people have been forcibly evicted from the camp by Bangladeshi police and camp management, said the UNHCR.

The Bangladesh government announced in May that people who lived within 100 feet of the camp must leave, according to the Arakan Project (AP).

Chris Lewa, the coordinator of AP, said, the authorities told the settlers to leave their homes or actions would be taken to remove their dwellings. She said that 853 Rohingyas were recently returned to Burma shortly after they enter Bangladesh territory, generally in small boats across the Naf River and in some cases across the land border. 

About 100 families from north Maungdaw Township in Arakan State settled recently on the outskirts of the camp, she said.

Tin Soe, an editor of Kaladan Press Network, based in Bangladesh, said that the people who were evicted have remained in the area, some using plastic bags to protect themselves from the rain. He said they have insufficient food and water and lack toilet facilities.

There are nearly 30,000 Rohingyas currently living in two makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar District. They are undocumented by the UNHCR.

Meanwhile, the UNHCR has provided the refugees. The UNHRC earlier called the Rohingyas issues a “protracted” humanitarian problem that began 30 years ago.

In June, the Burmese military government agreed with the Bangladesh government to repatriate Rohingya who live in Bangladesh. It was the first time Burma officially accepted Rohingya back from Bangladesh. However, the Bangladesh government said that unless there is political improvement in the country, Rohingya refugees will be sent back.

The Burmese government started building a border fence between Burma and Bangladesh to prevent Rohingya from Araka State from illegally entering Bangladesh to find work early this year. Burmese local authorities said that the fence was being built to deter smuggling and human trafficking. Illegal immigration has been a problem in this border region since colonial times.

The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority who face severe discrimination in Burma. They are prohibited from traveling outside Arakan State and are further marginalized by other discriminatory regime laws. They allege widespread, systemic human rights abuses by Burmese authorities, saying the government deprives them of free movement, education and rightful employment.

According to official Thai figures, the number of Rohingyas arrested for illegally entering Thailand has increased steadily in recent years, from 1,225 in 2005-6 to 4,886 in 2007-8.

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