Bangladesh Tells Burma to Improve Rohingyas’ Lives

11st Aug 2009, irrawaddy news,

Bangladesh has called on the Burmese regime to improve living conditions for Burma’s Rohingyas in order to stem the flow of refugees.

Rohingya refugees from Burma had become a “heavy burden” for Bangladesh, Dhaka’s Foreign Minister Dipu Moni told, according to the Bangladesh foreign ministry statement released on Sunday after a meeting between Dipu Moni and Raymond Hall, regional representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Burmese children wait for malaria test results at special clinic for malaria on May 4, 2009 in Sittwe, Arakan state. (Photo: Getty Images)

Both Dipu Moni and Hall agreed that Burma must improve its internal environment to stop influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh, according to the statement.

 “They are a heavy burden economically, socially, environmentally on Bangladesh,” Moni said. “Burma has to improve good environment to stop the influx of Rohingya to Bangladesh.”

More than 400,000 refugees are living around Cox’s Bazar.

The regional spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Asia, Kitty McKinsey, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that 28,000 Rohingya refugees were registered and living in two camps near Cox’s Bazar, while a further 400,000 unregistered refugees were living outside the camps.

McKinsey said the UNHCR was trying to tackle the problem of the 400,000 unregistered refugees with the Dhaka government, which says it wants to send Rohingya refugees back to Burma as soon as possible.

Chris Lewa, an Arakan Project Coordinator, said Bangladesh border security forces are pushing refugees back across the border.  More than a dozen, including women and babies, were arrested on the Burmese side by Burmese border authorities on July 16 after being forced back across the border.

Lewa said three refugees had died in one camp, Leda, this week because of poor medical care. Twenty nine died last year. Bangadesh authorities had barred two NGOs from entering Leda camp last week, she said.

Leda is not an official refugee camp, so residents receive no rations. They are also prevented from leaving the camp to seek work.

In early July, about 400 crude shelters built by Rohingyas near the Kutupalong camp at Cox’s Bazar were destroyed or relocated, and an estimated 1,000 people were forcibly evicted by Bangladeshi police and camp management, the UNHCR said.

Foreign Minister Moni visited Burma early this year to discuss the Rohingya refugee problem with the Burmese regime.

The regime maintains that the Rohingya are not Burmese citizens. Burmese authorities recently built a fence along the Burmese-Bangladeshi border, although they denied it was intended to deny access to repatriated Rohingyas. The fence is intended to stop human trafficking along the border, the authorities say.

In June, the Burmese regime agreed to allow the Bangladesh government to repatriate Rohingya refugees. However, Dhaka said it fears the Rohingya will return if there is no improvement in the human rights situation in Burma.

The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority who face severe discrimination in Burma. Many have fled the country to escape human rights abuses, including forced labor by the Burmese army. They also face abuses in Bangladesh. Rights groups say that many Rohingya have died while fleeing by boat to Thailand or Malaysia in search of work.

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