UNICEF: Rohingya children refugees face ‘hell on earth’

Rohingya Muslims, who spent four days in the open after crossing over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, carry their belongings after they were allowed to proceed towards a refugee camp, at Palong Khali, Bangladesh, on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
Updated 20 October 2017
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UNICEF: Rohingya children refugees face ‘hell on earth’

GENEVA: UNICEF says the children who make up most of the nearly 600,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence in Myanmar are seeing a “hell on earth” in overcrowded, muddy and squalid refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh.
The UN children’s agency has issued a report that documents the plight of children who account for 58 percent of the refugees who have poured into Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, over the last eight weeks. Report author Simon Ingram says about one in five children in the area are “acutely malnourished.”
The report comes ahead of a donor conference Monday in Geneva to drum up international funding for the Rohingya.
“Many Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh have witnessed atrocities in Myanmar no child should ever see, and all have suffered tremendous loss,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a statement.
The refugees need clean water, food, sanitation, shelter and vaccines to help head off a possible outbreak of cholera — a potentially deadly water-borne disease.
Ingram also warned of threats posed by human traffickers and others who might exploit children in the refugee areas.
“These children just feel so abandoned, so completely remote, and without a means of finding support or help. In a sense, it’s no surprise that they must truly see this place as a hell on earth,” Ingram told a news conference in Geneva.
The report features harrowing color drawings by some children being cared for by UNICEF and other aid groups who are scrambling to improve living conditions in Cox’s Bazar. Some of the images show helicopter gunships and green-clad men firing on a village or on people, some of whom are spewing blood.
The influx of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar began on Aug. 25 following militant attacks on border guards. Refugees have fled burning villages and provided accounts — like the children’s drawings — of security forces gunning down civilians.
The UN and humanitarian agencies seek $434 million for the Rohingya refugees — about one-sixth of which would go to UNICEF efforts to help children.


Rohingya leaders to visit Myanmar

Updated 16 November 2018
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Rohingya leaders to visit Myanmar

  • Community leaders will check on preparations for repatriation
  • Refugees who fled tents fearing forced repatriation have started to return

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: A group of Rohingya community leaders will go to Rakhine, Myanmar, to witness developments on the ground there, said Bangladesh Foreign Minister A. H. Mahmood Ali on Thursday evening in Dhaka.

Ali was talking to the journalists after his briefing to diplomats in Dhaka over the Rohingya repatriation and forthcoming general election. He said that during the briefing session diplomats came up with the idea of sending the Rohingya community leaders (Majhi) to witness the practical developments for repatriation.

“We agreed with this idea,” said Bangladesh Foreign Minister.

A group of community leaders will check the preparations initiated by Myanmar government and will brief their fellow Rohingyas after returning Bangladesh.

Ali said that there is a misconception among a few stakeholders that Bangladesh was trying to send back Rohingyas against their will.

“If we wanted to send the refugees forcibly, we won’t have allowed them in our country. We have shown a humanitarian gesture to them, so there is no question of sending them back forcibly,” Ali said.

“We will not send a single one of the refugees against their will. Those who will repatriate will go on their own will,” he added.

Talking to Arab News, Abul Kalam, Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner of Bangladesh said, they have not stopped the repatriation process. It will remain open and if any of the Rohingyas wants to go back home, Bangladesh authorities will initiate repatriation for him or her.

Commenting on the failure of the first attempt at repatriation Kalam said, “Now we need to create more pressure on Myanmar for the completion of some specific tasks to build confidence among the Rohingyas. In the next Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting, we will put up these issues after more scrutiny.”
However, the next JWG meeting date is yet to be fixed, Kalam said.

After a week of tension over feared repatriation, on Friday everything was peaceful in the Rohingya camps at Cox’s Bazar. The refugees who fled from their tents fearing forceful repatriation started returning to their shanties.

“The Myanmar authority wanted to deceive us in the name of so-called repatriation process. If we would have returned on Thursday, they (Myanmar) would never granted our citizenship rights,” said Mohammad Lutfor Rahman, 53, of Jamtoli camp, Ukhia, who fled from his own tent after hearing that he was listed as a returnee in the first group.

Why did the Rohingyas refuse to take the offer to go back home, Rahman was asked. He said, “Myanmar authorities have declared that the repatriated Rohingyas will be kept in the camps for 5 months or more, guarded by armed law enforcers and there were no clear guidelines if we can go back to our original places or villages. So, what is point of accepting a camp life proposal in Rakhine?”

Another refugee, Syed Alam, 37, of Kutupalang camp, told Arab News, “Before any kind of repatriation, our top most priority is the guarantee of citizenship and once it is granted many of our problems will be minimized.”

However, talking about the future course of repatriation, United Nations Human Rights agency, UNHCR spokesperson in Bangladesh, Fairas Al-Khateeb, said, “We will continue to assist the Bangladesh government in assessing the voluntariness for repatriation. Bangladesh and Myanmar have made the deal of repatriation bilaterally, we can’t say when it will actually take place.”