Bangladesh’s Prime Minister is seeking UN help in the Rohingya crisis, amid worsening conditions for the 400,000 refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar.
Sheikh Hasina has travelled to New York to call for international pressure on the Myanmar regime to ensure people are able to return to their homes after ceasing what the UN has branded “ethnic cleansing”.
Rohingya Muslims have been crossing the border to escape unrest in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
Members of the minority group have arrived in Bangladesh with harrowing accounts of the military burning homes, killing civilians and terrorising communities with violence.
The Myanmar regime argues the violence is in response to attacks by Rohingya militants against government targets.
It has said people able to prove their citizenship can return, but most Rohingya are stateless.
The exodus has created a humanitarian emergency on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border and authorities are struggling to cope.
In the border town of Cox’s Bazaar, existing camps already home to 300,000 Rohingya are overflowing, and families living on muddy roadsides are forced to fight over meagre food rations.
UNICEF estimates 60% of the refugees are children, and many civilians arrive starving and with nothing but the clothes they are wearing.
It is also feared a breakout of diarrhoea could become an epidemic.
Bangladesh has announced it will work with the UN to build 14,000 new shelters, each housing six families, in the next 10 days.
Mohamad Anisul Islam, a 23-year-old Bangladeshi art student helping the aid effort, insists the government was doing all it could for refugees but said their circumstances were “miserable”.
He said: “They have no food, no home, none of their basic human rights are being met,” he said.”We already have a big population in Bangladesh and we want them to go home, but while they are here we want to help.”
Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali described the crisis as “unprecedented” and called for international pressure on the Myanmar government to “immediately end its ongoing ethnic cleansing.”
Tensions have been further heightened after Dhaka accused its neighbour of repeatedly violating its air space and warned further “provovative acts” risked “unwarranted consequences”.
Myanmar’s leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi will not attend the meeting of the UN General Assembly, amid fierce criticism of her failure to condemn the ongoing violence against the Rohingya.