Amid a dramatic increase in the number of refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar’s Northern Rakhine state, UNHCR today called for urgent action to address the root causes of the recent surge in violence, so that people are no longer compelled to flee and can eventually return home in safety and dignity.
In the last two weeks an estimated 270,000 Rohingya refugees have sought safety in Bangladesh, UNHCR spokesperson Duniya Aslam Khan told a press briefing in Geneva today.
The limited shelter capacity is already exhausted. Refugees are now squatting in makeshift shelters that have mushroomed along the road and on available land in the Ukhiya and Teknaf areas, he said.
The Rohingyas are a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar who have faced discrimination and extreme poverty for decades.
They have not been allowed to exercise their basic rights including the freedom to move, right to education, work and other social, civil and political rights. The Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar are now stateless refugees, making them even more vulnerable and adding more challenges to the search for solutions.
While most of Rohingya refugees arrive on foot, mostly walking through the jungle and mountains for several days, thousands are braving long and risky voyages across the rough seas of the Bay of Bengal. They wait on the Myanmar border to take fishing boats to Teknaf in Bangladesh.
The vast majority are women including mothers with newborn babies, families with children. They arrive in poor condition, exhausted, hungry and desperate for shelter. We remain concerned by continuing reports of civilians dying as they try to flee to safety.
The two refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar in south-east Bangladesh – home to nearly 34,000 Rohingya refugees before this influx – are now bursting at the seams. The population has more than doubled in two weeks, totaling more than 70,000. There is an urgent need for more land and shelters.
“UNHCR and our partners are working to provide protection and life-saving support to the new arrivals in Kutupalang and Nayapara camps. We continue to identify the most vulnerable refugees, such as unaccompanied children, women, the elderly and disabled, in need of shelter, food, water and healthcare. We are calling for the registration of all refugees upon arrival, in order to ensure their protection and access to essential services,” said the UNHCR Spokesperson.