Aboard rickety boats or swimming, over 750 Rohingya reach Bangladesh

Rohingya refugees sit on a makeshift boat as they get interrogated by the Border Guard of Bangladesh after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, at Shah Porir Dwip near Cox's Bazar Friday. (Reuters)
Updated 10 November 2017
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Aboard rickety boats or swimming, over 750 Rohingya reach Bangladesh

COX’S BAZAR/YANGON: They came in boats, others on flimsy rafts, some even swam. Around 750 Rohingya Muslims made their escape from Myanmar on Friday to reach Bangladesh, where the greatest danger is malnutrition and disease in teeming refugee camps.
Over 613,000 Rohingya have already taken refuge in the camps since a Myanmar military clearance operation forced them to abandon their villages in northern Rakhine state.
Rohingya who have reached Bangladesh have recounted horror stories of rape and murder. A top UN official described the military’s actions as “ethnic cleansing,” though Myanmar denied that, saying its operation was needed for national security after Rohingya militants attacked 30 security posts on Aug. 25.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar’s less than two-year-old administration, was in Vietnam on Friday, attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. She was expected to hold talks with several leaders on the sidelines of the gathering, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Having won the Nobel Peace Prize for defying the generals who ruled predominantly Buddhist Myanmar with an iron fist for nearly half a century, Suu Kyi’s reputation as a stateswoman has suffered due to her failure to speak out more strongly over the Rohingya crisis.
Under a constitution written before the junta gave way, the civilian administration still has to share power with the generals, and has little say over defense and security issues.
Still, leaders at APEC, and two other regional summits to be hosted by the Philippines in the coming days, are expected to exert pressure on Suu Kyi to do more to stem the crisis.
And on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet with Suu Kyi in Naypyitaw, the Myanmar capital, with senators back in Washington pressing to impose sanctions targeting the military.
International Rescue Committee, the leading aid agency headquartered in New York and led by former British Foreign Minister David Miliband, reckoned that up to two-thirds of the 300,000 Rohingya remaining in Myanmar will join the exodus to Bangladesh in the coming months.
The IRC in a statement highlighted the extremely dangerous health conditions for Rohingya living in camps in the port city of Cox’s Bazar.
A nutrition survey led by its partner Action Contre la Faim had found 40,000 Rohingya children faced malnutrition and required life-saving assistance.
It said 95 percent of the population was drinking contaminated water — and agencies had reported that two-thirds of Cox’s Bazar’s water was contaminated with feces.
“The conditions we are seeing in Cox’s Bazaar create a perfect storm for a public health crisis on an unimaginable scale,” said Cat Mahony, the IRC’s emergency response director in Cox’s Bazar.
“The situation will only deteriorate with more arrivals and a greater strain on already overstretched resources.”
Still, Rohingya too scared to stay in Myanmar were ready to risk their lives crossing the waters around the mouth of the Naf River to reach Bangladesh.
They were helped on Friday by another day of calm seas, though more than 200 have drowned attempting the crossing during the past two months.
Bangladesh officials said significant numbers were arriving on rafts they had built from bamboo, lashing plastic jerrycans to the poles for extra buoyancy. They said more Rohingya had swum across on Thursday.
A Reuters photographer saw up to 10 rafts landing on the beaches of Teknaf, at the southern tip of Cox’s Bazar, on Friday.
People reaching the shore have told Reuters that there are thousands living in desperate conditions on the strand of beach by the river’s mouth at Pa Nyaung Pin Gyi, as they waited for a chance to cross over.
Dil Muhammad, 30, from Buthidaung, one of the Rakhine regions that bore the brunt of the military operation, finally made it across with his wife and three children after weeks of living on the sand because he could not afford to pay a boatman.


France to send reinforcements to Italy border after protests

Updated 23 April 2018
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France to send reinforcements to Italy border after protests

  • Demonstrators from a far-right organization have block a mountain pass
  • Most of those crossing the Alps in recent months have been from Guinea or Ivory Coast, both former French colonies

LYON: France’s interior minister said he would send “significant” security reinforcements to the country’s Alpine border with Italy after a weekend of protest actions by pro and anti migrant groups.
Far-right groups and pro-migrant activists have turned the mountain passes by the border, which are used by migrants traveling from Italy to France, into a stage for “provocations” and “posturing,” Gerard Collomb said.
“Faced with these unacceptable actions,” the minister, whose controversial immigration law was adopted Sunday by the National Assembly, said “significant police and gendarme reinforcements” would be deployed.
The extra security forces will “ensure absolute respect for the control of the border,” he added.
Late Saturday and early Sunday, activists from a small French far-right group blocked a key mountain pass some six kilometers from the Italian border which they say is a “strategic point for illegal migrants,” prompting a furious reaction from pro-migrant activists.
On Sunday afternoon, a procession of French and Italian pro-migrant groups crossed the border at the Montgenevre Pass, alongside some 30 migrants, and had some minor scuffles with law enforcement officials on the way, a police source said.
The interior ministry said “violence was committed against security forces and a gendarme vehicle was damaged.”
Thousands of young men from francophone west Africa have trudged across the mountains over the past two years, dreaming of jobs in France.
In recent months, as news about the route — one of the lesser known on Europe’s migrant trail — filtered back to Africa, the arrivals have gained pace.
Most of those crossing the Alps in recent months have been from Guinea or Ivory Coast, both former French colonies.
Few have any hope of being granted refugee status, being considered economic migrants for fleeing a crippling lack of jobs and opportunities at home rather than war.
Collomb said the legislation passed Sunday aims for “better controlled” immigration, halving the waiting time for asylum applications to six months while also making it easier to deport those turned down as “economic” migrants.
However the legislation, criticized by rightwingers for being too soft and by leftwingers who see it as repressive, has exposed unprecedented divisions in President Emmanuel Macron’s young centrist party.