Bangladesh turns away more Muslims fleeing Myanmar
06/12/2012 15:05 GMT
by Munir Uz Zaman
Teknaf, Bangladesh, June 12, 2012 (AFP) - Bangladesh has refused 14 boats carrying 550 Rohingya Muslims fleeing sectarian violence in Myanmar in the last two days, officials said Tuesday, as the UN called for the border to be opened.
Patrol teams from Bangladesh's coast guards and border forces intercepted the rickety fishing boats, mostly carrying women and children, as they tried to enter Bangladesh across the Naf river, which separates the two nations.
In the latest example, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) detained three boats carrying 103 Rohingya and they were later returned to Myanmar territory, BGB major Shafiqur Rahman told AFP.
"Women on the boats said they have lost husbands and relatives in the violence. Their houses were torched," he said, adding the BGB had turned away 11 boats carrying over 400 Rohingya since Monday.
Coast Guard station commander Lieutenant Badruddoza said his forces also turned away three boats carrying 144 Rohingya people on Tuesday as they tried to land at a southeastern island.
"The three boats apparently tried to anchor at the Saint Martin Island, but a coast guard patrol team pushed them back to Myanmar waters," Badruddoza told AFP.
The UN Refugee Agency urged Dhaka to allow the Rohingya refugees into the country.
"On these boats are women and children, and injured people," UNHCR representative Craig Sanders told AFP in Dhaka.
"We are appealing to the Bangladesh government to keep open its border and provide emergency and other humanitarian assistance."
Dozens of people have been killed in a surge in sectarian violence in Myanmar, a senior Myanmar government official said Tuesday.
A state of emergency has been declared for Rakhine state, which borders Bangladesh, posing a major test for the reformist government which took power last year.
"It's a major setback for the Rohingya refugees and the people of Myanmar and Bangladesh," Sanders said. "Our first task is to ask Bangladesh to provide them safe passage, humanitarian and medical needs."
But Bangladesh has stepped up security along its 200-kilometre (125-mile) border with Myanmar to prevent an influx of Rohingya refugees.
"It is not in our interest that new refugees come from Myanmar," Foreign Minister Dipu Moni told reporters.
"The entry of refugees from Myanmar has impacted in Bangladesh's social, environmental and law and order situation."
Bangladeshi officials estimate that a total of 300,000 Rohingya people live in the country, with only about a tenth of them in two official refugee camps in the southern district of Cox's Bazaar.
Rohingya are a stateless people described by the United Nations as one of the world's most persecuted minorities.
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