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Rohingyas continue to slip in, but number unknown

December 22, 2016

National Taskforce meeting told

Dhaka is worried as arrival of Myanmar nationals continues in Bangladesh from the western state of Rakhine in the face of persecution since ethnic cleansing began on Rohingya Muslim minority in early October.

According to information received by the government from different authentic sources, security forces in the neighbouring country has taken up such extreme persecution that the Rohingyas are forced to seek protection in Bangladesh, say diplomatic sources.

The 11the meeting of the National Taskforce on Implementation of Strategy on Undocumented Myanmar Nationals (UMN) held yesterday at the foreign ministry discussed the Rohingya situation in Rakhine as well as thousands of newly arrived Myanmar nationals in the face of persecution.

The meeting with Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali in the chair took stock of the situation from the high officials from different ministries and security forces, border guards and other agencies concerned.

Uncounted numbers of Myanmar nationals have already entered Bangladesh and most of them have scattered in different parts of Bandarban and Cox's Bazar, the meeting was told.

“So far there has been no such initiative or mechanism in place to count the number of new arrivals. The law-enforcement agencies or local authorities have not yet been instructed to trace and count the newly arrived Myanmar nationals,” said a foreign ministry official attending the meeting.

According to UNHCR and IOM, some 34,000 civilians have been forced to cross the border into Bangladesh in recent weeks and months.

However, Bangladesh officials have claimed the number would be much higher as the UN bodies have counted only the people who are now in makeshift settlements at Ukhia in Cox's Bazar.

Another foreign ministry official said the actual number of new arrivals might be one lakh since violence erupted in Myanmar.

The IOM and its partners working in the makeshift settlements and neighbouring host communities are providing various services to the most vulnerable of around 1 lakh unregistered Myanmar nationals, according to sources.

Bangladesh Ambassador in Yangon Mohammad Sufiur Rahman, who has been called out by the foreign ministry thrice this month, attended the Taskforce meeting and briefed it about the situation in Rakhine as well as steps taken to normalise the situation through diplomatic channels.

Sources say the meeting was informed that the Myanmar security forces have adopted a policy that might force more Rohingyas to cross the border and enter Bangladesh.

They add military forces are involved in perpetrating mass murder, looting and rape against the Rohingyas in Rakhine where the army went on a counterinsurgency offensive after an October 9 attack there on police outposts that killed nine officers.

Houses and other establishments were demolished in such a planned way that it is highly impossible for the poor Rohingyas to rebuild those and return to their dwelling places.

The meeting was further informed that the Myanmar forces have destroyed cropland in vast areas. People who are fully dependent on agriculture have become completely jobless and helpless and are forced to flee from Rakhine for shelter in Bangladesh.

People living in one village are not allowed to go to another village for shopping or buying essentials without “special pass” from local authorities. The authorities are not issuing any such pass to the Rohingyas. As a result, they are moving towards Bangladesh for shelter.

Meeting sources say the Myanmar authorities have created such an inhuman situation in Rakhine that the Rohingyas would never feel like going back to their homeland. They have left their homeland en masse for fear of persecution, killing, rape, arsons on houses and paddy fields, and destruction of houses and business establishments.

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