Bangladesh’s mega refugee camp plan ‘dangerous’: UN

Rohingya refugees reach up for relief supplies at the Kutupalong refugee camp in this file photo. (AFP)
Updated 08 October 2017
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Bangladesh’s mega refugee camp plan ‘dangerous’: UN

COX’S BAZAR: A top UN official said Saturday Bangladesh’s plan to build the world’s biggest refugee camp for 800,000-plus Rohingya was dangerous because overcrowding could heighten the risks of deadly diseases spreading quickly.
The arrival of more than half-a-million Rohingya refugees who have fled an army crackdown in Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state since Aug. 25 has put an immense strain on already packed camps in Bangladesh.
Hard-pressed Bangladesh authorities plan to expand a refugee camp at Kutupalong near the border town of Cox’s Bazar to accommodate all the Rohingya.
But Robert Watkins, the UN resident coordinator in Dhaka, told AFP the country should instead look for new sites to build more camps.
“When you concentrate too many people into a very small area, particularly the people who are very vulnerable to diseases, it is dangerous,” Watkins told AFP.
“There are stronger possibilities, if there are any infectious diseases that spread, that will spread very quickly,” he said, also highlighting fire risks in the camps.
“It is much easier to manage people, manage the health situation and security situation if there are a number of different camps rather than one concentrated camp.”
At the request of the Bangladesh government, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) has agreed to coordinate the work of aid agencies and help build shelters at the new camp site.
According to the IOM, the proposed camp will be the world’s largest, dwarfing Bidi Bidi in Uganda and Dadaab in Kenya — both housing around 300,000 refugees.
Three thousand acres of land next to the existing Kutupalong camp have been set aside for the new Rohingya arrivals.
“700,000 is a big camp... we and our partners will have our work cut out for us,” Joel Millman, an IOM spokesman, told reporters in Geneva on Friday.
But he added that UN agencies “wouldn’t be undertaking this if we didn’t think it was feasible.”
Bangladeshi officials say the new camp will help them better manage relief operations and ensure the safety of the Rohingya amid fears that dispersed camps could become recruiting grounds for militants.
This week Bangladesh reported 4,000-5,000 Rohingya were crossing the border daily, with 10,000 more waiting at the frontier.
Watkins said the continuing influx represented “a very big challenge” for aid agencies.
“Just when we start to think we are getting on top of the situation, the numbers go up. We are not where we need to be right now,” he said.
“There is still a lot more needed to be done.”


10 killed in Nicaragua protests against pension reform plan

Updated 10 min 27 sec ago
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10 killed in Nicaragua protests against pension reform plan

  • Students from Polytechnic University have been holed up on their campus since Thursday evading police.
  • Murillo compared the protesters to "vampires demanding blood to feed their political agenda."
MANAGUA: Violent protests against a proposed change to Nicaragua's pension system have left at least 10 people dead over two days, the government said Friday.
In the biggest protests in President Daniel Ortega's 11 years in office in this poor Central American country, people are angry over the plan because workers and employers would have to chip in more toward the retirement system.
The government is willing to hold a dialogue and Ortega will issue a formal call on Saturday, Vice President Rosario Murillo said, adding: "At least 10 compatriots have died."
Demonstrations rocked the capital Managua and nearby cities for a third day.
The new law, besides increasing employer and employee contributions, would cut the overall pension amount by five percent.
"We are against these reforms, which means we're against this government taking from the pockets of Nicaraguans," said Juan Bautista.
He said riot police brutally attacked demonstrators like him because "the dictator does not like people to protest."
A woman nearby shouted: "The people are tired of this repression!"
Students from Polytechnic University have been holed up on their campus since Thursday evading police. Other students took refuge in nearby buildings or residences.
In Las Colinas, south of the capital, demonstrators raised small barricades and with their hands raised asked the riot police not to target them.
Four independent television outlets were taken off the air after they broadcast the demonstrations on Thursday, and two were still blocked on Friday.
Murillo compared the protesters to "vampires demanding blood to feed their political agenda."
The opposition said more than 20 people were wounded while the writers group Pen Nicaragua said that at least 11 journalists were attacked while covering the demonstrations.
"We call on the Nicaraguan authorities to act to prevent further attacks on demonstrators and on the media," said Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights."
She urged the government to let people "exercise their right to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly and association," and urged protesters to demonstrate "peacefully."
She also said demonstrators were attacked by government supporters in the city of Masaya.
Miguel Mora, director of the private television channel 100% Noticias -- which the government blocked -- accused Ortega of applying the same censorship he imposed in the 1980s during the Sandinista Revolution.
When Ortega returned to power in 2007 he promised to "never censor a media outlet -- and today he is doing just that," Mora told Channel 14.