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Border stays closed despite pressure
Both UN and Human Rights Watch urge refugees be acceptedBangladesh coast guards block a boat carrying Rohingya refugees (Daily Prothom Alo)
- ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka
- June 13, 2012
â€śBangladesh is confident the Government of Myanmar would be able to deal with the situation in the best possible manner and restore normalcy in the region in the shortest possible time,â€ť the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Hundreds of refugees seeking shelter fromÂ sectarian violence in Rakhine state in western Myanmar have been turned away at the Bangladesh border. Around 28,000 Rohingyas already reside in two camps in Coxâ€™s Bazar, according to the UN.
â€śIt will be a serious problem ... There are already a huge number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh,â€ť Foreign Minister Dipu Moni told reporters at her office yesterday.
The government estimates there are an additional 500,000 unregistered Rohingyas from Myanmar living in Bangladesh without any legal status. The UN estimates that number is between 200,000 and 300,000.
Buddhists in Rakhine state largely consider the Muslim minority RohingyaÂ as foreigners, and the Myanmar government has denied them citizenship, refusing to acknowledge them as one of the countryâ€™s recognized ethnic groups.
â€śWe have had discussions with various government officials for the last few days over allowing the refugees into the country,â€ť UN High Commissioner for the Refugees representative in Bangladesh, Craig Sanders, told a local newspaper in Dhaka yesterday.
This came a day after Bangladesh border and coast guards turned away about 15 boats carrying around 1,500Â people as they tried to enter Bangladesh via the Naf River in Cox's Bazar district on Monday.
â€śWe are very concerned about whatâ€™s happening at the border; we are aware thatÂ boats are arriving with refugees and being sent back,â€ť Sanders said.
Human Rights Watch (HRW)Â also urged BangladeshÂ yesterday to keep its border open.
â€śBy closing its border when violence in Arakan [Rakhine] state is out of control, Bangladesh is putting lives at grave risk," said HRW's refugee program director Bill Frelick.
"Bangladesh has an obligation under international law to keep its border open to people fleeing threats to their lives and provide them protection," Frelick said in a statement from New York.
Although Bangladesh is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, Bangladesh is obligated by the customary international law principle of non-refoulement not to reject asylum seekers at its border when they are fleeing threats to their lives or freedom, HRW said.
Fleeing Rohingyas fail to cross border
Clashes spark Rohingya refugee fears
Myanmar mulls Rohingya return