Bangladesh to build shelters for Rohingya child refugees without parents
Bangladesh will build separate shelters for 6,000 Rohingya Muslim children who entered the country without parents to escape violence in neighbouring Burma, a minister said.
Children make up about 60% of the estimated 436,000 Rohingya who have poured into Bangladesh over the last four weeks to flee persecution in Buddhist-majority Burma.
Junior minister Nuruzzaman Ahmed said the social welfare ministry has asked local authorities for 200 acres of land to build facilities for the children without parents, and about 1,580 such children have already been registered.
The UN children's agency Unicef has identified about 1,800 children who fled Burma without parents after violence broke out on August 25, but Mr Ahmed said the total number is about 6,000.
Zillar Rahman, a senior official at the ministry, told reporters in Dhaka that the government wants to protect those children by keeping them away from adults.
"Ages between 13 and 18 are vulnerable.
"If they live with the adults there is a possibility of getting harmed or involved in criminal activities.
"So the government is thinking of separating such children who have come here without their parents," Mr Rahman said.
He said if the land is available, children will be divided into two groups, those below age seven and those between eight and 18.
The plans come as the UN refugee agency has called for a redoubling of the international humanitarian response in Bangladesh.
"Despite every effort by those on the ground, the massive influx of people seeking safety has been outpacing capacities to respond, and the situation for these refugees has still not stabilised," Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for UN high commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi, said on Tuesday in Geneva.
"Many of those who have arrived recently are deeply traumatised.
"Despite having found refuge in Bangladesh, they are still exposed to enormous hardship."
In a separate statement issued in Geneva, seven experts empowered by the United Nations to look into human rights issues called on Burma's government to halt violence against its minority Rohingya community and stop persecution and rights violations that have been described as an example of ethnic cleansing.
They also called on Burma's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to look more closely into the situation and personally meet with the affected Rohingya.
"No one chooses, especially not in the hundreds of thousands, to leave their homes and ancestral land, no matter how poor the conditions, to flee to a strange land to live under plastic sheets and in dire circumstances except in life-threatening situations.
"Despite violence allegedly perpetrated by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa), the whole Rohingya population should not have to pay the price," they said in the statement.
Arsa is a Rohingya insurgent group whose attacks on police posts on August 25 led to massive retaliation by Burma's army.