Current News

Rohingya Continue to Flee West Burma in Thousands

Rohingya
people perennially leave their homes and families in Burma and
Bangladesh where they face extreme discrimination and are denied
citizenship. (Photo: Reuters)


RANGOON–Thousands
of people have fled from Burma’s restive Arakan State and
neighboring Bangladesh in the first week of this month alone, the UN
refugee agency reported, warning that the plight of displaced persons
in the region continues to grow more severe.

More
than 2,000 people left the region on smugglers’ boats in the first
week of the year, most likely to other countries in Southeast Asia,
the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a
news briefing on Friday in Geneva.

That
adds to an estimated 13,000 people who left the Bay of Bengal on
smugglers’ boats in 2012, UNHCR said, with at least 485 still
missing or believed to be dead after four reported boat accidents.
“It
is unclear how many actually make it to their final destinations,
where they often risk arrest, detention and possible refoulement
through deportation to Myanmar [Burma],” UNHCR spokesman Adrian
Edwards said in the news briefing, according to a statement released
later by the agency. He was referring to an international customary
law of non-refoulement that says migrants should not be returned to
countries where they could be subject to persecution or human rights
abuses.
Arakan
State, in western Burma, was the site of severe sectarian violence
last year between local Buddhists and Muslims. The United Nations
estimates that more than 100 people were killed and more than 115,000
displaced in clashes beginning in June.
Tensions
have eased since then, but tens of thousands of people, mostly
Rohingya Muslims, continue to live in overcrowded camps in the state
where food and other basic staples are in short supply.
The
UNHCR report on Friday came the same day that about 700 Rohingya
migrants were rescued from alleged human traffickers in southern
Thailand.
The
migrants said they had traveled voluntarily to Thailand as part of
their journey to a third country, the Associated Press reported,
adding that Thai authorities planned to deport the group back to
Burma.
Edwards
urged countries in Southeast Asia to keep their borders open to
Rohingya migrants and others seeking asylum.
“UNHCR
continues to seek access to individuals arriving by boat who are
arrested and detained by government authorities,” he said, adding
that the refugee agency had asked Thai authorities for access to
newly-arrived migrants from Burma but were still waiting for a
response.
An
estimated 800,000 Rohingya Muslims live in Burma, mostly in Arakan
State, according to UN estimates. The government does not grant them
citizenship or recognize them as an official ethnic group, and
although many Rohingya families have lived in the country for
generations, locals often view them as illegal immigrants from
Bangladesh.
In
Bangladesh, Rohingya Muslims also face discrimination and are widely
seen as a strain on limited resources.
In
July, the Bangladeshi government ordered aid groups to stop helping
Rohingya who were fleeing from violence in Burma.
Source Irrwaddy: