Tens of Thousands of Rohingyas from Burma at risk of starvation in an unprecedented crackdown in Bangladesh

The ARAKAN PROJECT PRESS RELEASE
15 February 2010
A new report released today by The Arakan Project states that an unprecedented crackdown by the Bangladesh government on Rohingyas from Burma is creating a grave humanitarian crisis for tens of thousands of refugees.  The report “Unregistered Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh: Crackdown, forced displacement and hunger” calls on the Bangladesh authorities to immediately cease mass arrests and forced displacement of unregistered Rohingya asylum seekers and ensure that they are adequately protected and provided with access to food.
One year after Thailand cast adrift hundreds of boat people on the high seas, stateless Rohingya asylum seekers desperately seeking international protection face untold misery in Bangladesh.
The crackdown by Bangladesh law enforcement agencies has targeted unregistered Rohingya refugees who had settled outside the two official refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar District since 2 January 2010, while a similar campaign which had begun in Bandarban District in mid-July 2009 is still ongoing.  Concurrently, anti-Rohingya movements among the local Bangladeshi population and the local media are fuelling xenophobia, calling for Bangladesh to rid itself of the Rohingya.  Over the last month and in Cox’s Bazar District alone, hundreds of unregistered Rohingyas have been arrested, either pushed back across the border to Burma or sent to jail under immigration charges.  In several areas of the District, thousands were evicted with threats of violence.  Robberies, assaults and rape against Rohingyas have significantly increased.

After eviction or in fear of arrest and assault, thousands of self-settled Rohingyas have been forcibly displaced and most flocked to the Kutupalong makeshift camp for safety.  The makeshift camp population has now increased to over 30,000.  They do not receive food relief and cannot leave the camp to look for work or they could be arrested.   30,000 refugees in this camp go hungry and are now at risk of starvation.
“Hunger is spreading rapidly among the already malnourished population in the makeshift camp and a grave humanitarian crisis is looming.  Bangladesh must end this crackdown at once or these refugees will start dying from starvation,” said Chris Lewa, Director of The Arakan Project.
The European Parliament adopted a resolution  last Thursday (11 February) calling on Bangladesh to recognise that the unregistered Rohingya are asylum seekers who fled persecution in Myanmar and are in need of international protection.  This week, a delegation of 8 European Parliamentarians is conducting a fact-finding mission to examine the Rohingyas’ situation in Bangladesh.
The Rohingya are a persecuted Muslim minority in North Arakan State in Burma/Myanmar, rendered stateless and subject to restrictions of movement and on permission to marry, arbitrary arrest, forced labour and other abuses.  Today 28,000 registered Rohingya refugees are housed in two official camps assisted by the UNHCR, but an estimated population of 200,000 survive without assistance and protection in villages and slums in south-eastern Bangladesh.  These unregistered Rohingyas are the target of the crackdown.
The new Arakan Project report can be accessed here
For more information, please contact Chris Lewa at: chris.lewa@gmail.com
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