Around 60 babies a day are being born in vast refugee camps in Bangladesh, sheltering hundreds of thousands of mainly Rohingya Muslims who have fled Burma, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF says.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Tuesday more international pressure was needed on Burma to take back Rohingya refugees, rejecting a claim by the Burmese government that it had repatriated a family of five.
Bangladesh has failed to persuade aid agencies to sign up to its plan to move 100,000 Rohingya refugees to a remote island in June, internal documents show, amid fears they could be trapped there at the mercy of cyclones, floods and human traffickers.
The United Nations refugee agency is set to sign a memorandum of understanding with Bangladesh laying out a framework for the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Burma, an agency spokesman said on Wednesday.
A Burmese minister told Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh on Wednesday their repatriation was a priority, during the first visit by a top Burmese official to victims of what the United Nations says was “ethnic cleansing” by the Burma Army.
A Burmese government minister will visit Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh on Wednesday, officials said, a rare trip that Dhaka hopes will help speed the return home of hundreds of thousands of the neighbouring nation’s Muslim minority.
Bangladesh will send a protest note to Burma over an increased security presence near a portion of their border where thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been sheltering just inside Burma, a Bangladesh border guard official said on Thursday.
Officials and aid workers fear that the welcome is wearing thin for Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh since August, due to the unprecedented number of refugees and growing doubts over whether Burma will ever take them back.
Burmese and Bangladeshi representatives held talks about 5,300 Rohingya Muslims trapped on a strip of unclaimed land between their two countries and visited the area on Tuesday, officials and Rohingya refugees told Reuters.
Representatives from Bangladesh and Burma will meet on Tuesday to discuss the repatriation to Burma of more than 6,500 Rohingya Muslims trapped on a strip of unclaimed land between the two countries, Bangladeshi officials said.
Bangladesh has delayed the repatriation of Rohingya Muslim refugees to Burma, set to start on Tuesday, because the process of compiling and verifying the list of people to be sent back is incomplete, a senior Bangladeshi official said.
Over 100 Rohingya Muslims have crossed into Bangladesh from Burma since Wednesday, with the latest refugees saying army operations are continuing in troubled Rakhine State, raising doubts about plans to send back 655,500 who had already fled.
Officials from Burma and Bangladesh meet on Monday to discuss how to implement a deal signed in November on the repatriation of more than 650,000 Rohingya who have fled Burma since late August. But many say fear returning.
India has mobilised around 60,000 police and paramilitary troops in a sensitive border state ahead of the publication of a list of citizens it says will be used to detect and deport illegal immigrants, mainly Muslims, from neighbouring Bangladesh.
A top UN official recounted to the Security Council on Tuesday “heartbreaking and horrific accounts of sexual atrocities” by Burmese soldiers against Rohingya Muslim women, urging the body to visit the region and demand an end to attacks on civilians.
Pope Francis called on Thursday for decisive measures to resolve the political reasons that caused mostly Muslim refugees in Burma to flee to Bangladesh and urged countries to help the Dhaka government deal with the crisis.
Bangladesh approved a $280 million project on Tuesday to develop an isolated and flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal to temporarily house 100,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in neighbouring Burma.
Burma and Bangladesh have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concerning the repatriation of more than 600,000 refugees from Rakhine State’s Rohingya Muslim community who have fled the state’s north en masse over recent months.
Bangladesh is in negotiations with Burma aimed at a deal to repatriate displaced Rohingya and Dhaka’s foreign minister will address the matter at talks in Burma this week, the Bangladeshi foreign ministry said on Sunday.
Blessed by calmer seas, several hundred more Rohingya Muslims on Thursday joined a multitude of refugees in Bangladesh, as calls grew for upcoming regional summits to exert more pressure on Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi to stem the crisis.
Burma said on Wednesday that a UN Security Council statement on the Rohingya refugee crisis could “seriously harm” its talks with Bangladesh over repatriating more than 600,000 people who have fled there to escape a Burmese military crackdown.