Monday 20 November 2017

Rohingya refugee numbers in Bangladesh surge to 370,000

Rohingya ethnic minority refugees reach for food distributed by Bangladeshi volunteers near Cox's Bazar's Gundum area, Bangladesh (AP)
Rohingya ethnic minority refugees reach for food distributed by Bangladeshi volunteers near Cox's Bazar's Gundum area, Bangladesh (AP)

The number of Rohingya refugees who have fled violence in Burma has soared to about 370,000, according to the UN refugee agency.

The new estimate from the UNHCR is more than 50,000 higher than Monday's figure after aid agencies reached "more villages, hamlet and pockets where refugees have gathered" in Bangladesh.

Thousands of ethnic Rohingya Muslims have been arriving daily by foot across the swampy border as well as by rickety wooden boats travelling on wild seas since violence erupted on August 25 in Burma.

The influx has left Bangladesh's refugee camps reeling. The UNHCR said it was flying in two shipments of aid materials including jerry cans, blankets, sleeping mats and shelter materials.

It said the goods would help 25,000 refugees at packed refugee camps in Bangladesh's border district of Cox's Bazar. More airlifts are planned in coming days.

The update came as t he Bangladeshi prime minister visited a struggling refugee camp that has absorbed some of the influx.

Sheikh Hasina demanded that Burma "take steps to take their nationals back", and pledged temporary aid until that happens.

"We will not tolerate injustice," she said at a rally at the Kutupalong refugee camp, near the border town of Ukhiya.

On Monday night, she condemned Buddhist-majority Burma for "atrocities" she said had reached a level beyond description, telling legislators she had "no words to condemn Burma" and noting that Bangladesh had long been protesting against the persecution of the Rohingya.

The UN human rights chief said the violence and injustice faced by the Rohingya in Burma - where UN rights investigators have been barred from entry - "seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

"The Burma government should stop pretending that the Rohingya are setting fire to their own homes and laying waste to their own villages," Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said, calling it a "complete denial of reality".

AP

Press Association

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