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Iran Press TV

UN asks for aid to tackle Rohingya crisis unfolding in southern Bangladesh

Iran Press TV

Sun Sep 10, 2017 2:8PM

The United Nations has appealed for aid to tackle a humanitarian crisis unfolding in southern Bangladesh, where the number of Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Myanmar has neared 300,000.

UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh Robert Watkins said on Sunday that the wave of traumatized refugees was "showing no signs of stopping" in the Cox's Bazar region. The area has already helped thousands of people displaced by previous spasms of violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

"It is vital that aid agencies working in Cox's Bazar have the resources they need to provide emergency assistance to incredibly vulnerable people who have been forced to flee their homes and have arrived in Bangladesh with nothing," Watkins said.

On Saturday, Watkins said in a statement that aid agencies needed an urgent $77-million assistance to cope with the emergency.

In Cox's Bazar, reporters saw about 40 Rohingya, mainly women and children, arriving early on Sunday after a four-day trek followed by a border crossing on fishing boats.

According to the UN, 294,000 refugees have fled to Bangladesh since August 25, while tens of thousands more are believed to be on the move inside Rakhine after more than a fortnight without shelter, food, and water.

Bangladesh, which hosts about 400,000 Rohingya Muslims, has been under pressure from the huge number of new arrivals.

Red Cross organizations are scaling up operations in Rakhine in the wake of the UN's suspension of activities. The UN has evacuated non-critical staff from the area over the past two weeks.

The so-called pro-Rohingya group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on Sunday declared a month-long unilateral ceasefire to enable aid groups to bring humanitarian aid to those still in Myanmar's violence-wracked state of Rakhine.

About a dozen Muslim villages were burned down on Friday and Saturday in the ethnically mixed Rathedaung region of Rakhine.

"Slowly, one after another, villages are being burnt down, I believe that Rohingyas are already wiped out completely from Rathedaung," Reuters quoted Chris Lewa of the Rohingya monitoring group Arakan Project as saying.

Human rights groups say Myanmar's army and Buddhist vigilantes in Rakhine are engaged in a campaign of arson aimed at driving out the Muslim population.

Myanmar's government alleged last October that its posts had been attacked by Muslim militants, using the purported assault as a pretext for a siege on Rakhine. It claimed that another attack had been carried out on August 25 this year, triggering the recent brutal crackdown on the civilians in the state.

There have been numerous reports of summary execution, rape, and other abuses against the Muslims since late last year.

Rohingya Muslim community in Pakistan

The Rohingya community in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi is estimated to have 300,000 members who are living in bad conditions. Recent news coming out of Myanmar has been painful for them due to the fact that the community was forced from their homes half a century ago to move to Pakistan. Media depicting violence in Rakhine and shared on social media are passed around quickly among the community in Karachi.

Raheela Sadiq, a more recent migrant who came to Pakistan 15 years ago, said she has been unable to contact relatives in Rakhine via mobile phone for nearly two weeks. "I have seen what is happening to people over there on the internet," she said as tears filled her eyes.

Fisherman Noor Mohammed, 50, said three members of his family in Rakhine were killed a few days ago. "My brother, brother-in-law, and nephew were there (in Rakhine). They are all dead now. The army over there killed them," he said, adding that he heard the news from another nephew who is still alive.

Karachi's Rohingya community comprises refugees from an earlier era of displacement dating back to the 1960s and 1970s. They have stayed in touch with family back home, especially in recent years through mobile phones and social media.

The older members of the community fled from a repressive military regime that took power in 1962. They escaped on foot or by boat to Bangladesh, which was then East Pakistan. Eventually, they made their way to Karachi.

The United Nations has described the Rohingya as the most persecuted community in the world.

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