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Bangladesh asked to show traditional hospitality to people from Myanmar

News Stories, 15 June 2012

© UNHCR/K.McKinsey

A boy from Myanmar's northern Rakhine state at a refugee camp in Bangladesh.

UNHCR is deeply concerned that people fleeing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State are not able to find the safety and security they desperately need. 

The UN refugee agency has first-hand, credible accounts of boats from Myanmar not being enabled to access Bangladeshi territory. These reports indicate women, children and some wounded are onboard.

Dramatic scenes of people fleeing violence in Myanmar are being reported.  There are now a number of boats drifting in the mouth of the Naf River with desperate people onboard in need of water, food and medical care. It is vital that these people are allowed access to a safe haven and shelter.  

UNHCR recognises that, for years, Bangladesh has been bearing the brunt of the forced displacement caused by earlier crises in Myanmar. The latest events pose new challenges and UNHCR hopes that Bangladesh will respond in line with the country’s long history of compassion and solidarity. 

Meanwhile, UNHCR is closely following the developments in Myanmar’s Rakhine state where the situation remains fragile and volatile following rapid escalation of violence last week. 

On Wednesday 13th and Thursday 14th June, the team of UN representatives in Myanmar, including UNHCR, joined the visit of the Myanmar Minister of Border Affairs State to the areas affected by the recent riots. The aim of this mission was to get a snapshot assessment of the security situation, the scale of displacement and the immediate humanitarian needs.

According to initial findings, the security situation in the affected areas is tense. The government efforts to restore the rule of law are continuing. The UN team visited several locations in the areas affected by the violence. Enroute the team saw a number of smouldering villages. Considering the level of destruction seen in the area we estimate that the displacement and the needs could be considerable. Myanmar authorities estimate some 30,000 people have been displaced and are in need of food, shelter and medical attention. 

"I am hopeful that calm will be restored in Myanmar so that those who have been affected by the violence can receive the assistance that they need and the vital work of rebuilding relations between the communities can begin,” said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Erika Feller.  “UNHCR is eager to restart our activities in the affected area and support all communities to ensure that such crises do not erupt again, and people can return to their homes and start the process of rebuilding their lives."

UNHCR is encouraged by statements of Myanmar senior officials - from President Thein Sein down - aimed at defusing the situation and appealing for calm, patience and restraint and their calls for a collective reconciliation effort.  

The UN refugee agency stands ready to provide assistance and support to the governments and the people of Bangladesh and Myanmar in addressing this evolving humanitarian situation.

There are presently more than 30,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar living in two camps in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh. There are an additional 200,000 unregistered persons of concern from Myanmar in Bangladesh. 

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