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Unregistered Rohingyas' aid blocked

NGOs ordered to end food and medical help for refugees

Unregistered Rohingyas' aid blocked
A Rohingya boy carries firewood at a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar (photo by Habib Siddiqui) reporters, Dhaka and Cox's Bazar

August 3, 2012

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The Bangladesh government says it has ordered three international relief agencies to stop aiding unregistered Muslim Rohingyas from Myanmar who are now taking refuge just inside its borders. Joynul Bari, a local deputy commissioner, confirmed that Doctors Without Borders, Action Against Hunger and UK-based Muslim Aid  were told to stop providing medical help, food and other aid at the end of July. The government's NGO Affairs Bureau, which issued the suspension order, had been watching their activities for some time, said Bari. “The agencies have been aiding undocumented Rohingyas illegally and some of their activities expose the image of the country to threat,” he said. All three NGOs have helped Rohingyas on the border since the 1990s, when many fled from persecution in their home state of Rakhine, which lies across the Naf River from Bangladesh. Sentu Mian, an official from the NGO Affairs Bureau, said their aid to Rohingyas had served to encourage an influx of refugees from the latest clashes between the ethnic minority Muslim group and Rakhine Buddhists. This confrontation started in early June and has left 78 people dead, according to official figures. “We found that they [the NGOs] have offered rations and financial support to unregistered Rohingya refugees from Myanmar,” said Mian. “These activities work against the interests of Bangladesh and so we decided to impose a ban on them.” Tusabin Zaman, a representative of Muslim Aid Bangladesh, said they have closed their local office in Cox’s Bazar and would withdraw operations from the area. “The NGO bureau has ordered us to suspend our activities and we are following their orders,” he said, declining to comment further. The recent flare-up has also seen a number of refugees attempting to arrive by boat. Yesterday, police said they arrested nine Rohingyas in Dhaka who had been brought in by agents. Monirul Islam of the Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police said an investigation was underway regarding hundreds of stolen passports, in a case believed to have “a Rohingya link.” The government says there are as many as half a million Rohingyas in Bangladesh, while the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) puts the number at between 200,000 and 300,000 people. Only 28,000 of these are officially registered, living in two UNHCR refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar where they receive shelter and food. Secondary education is not available and refugees are not legally permitted to work. Related reports Bangladesh loses sight of own refugee past Clashes spark Rohingya refugee fears Myanmar mulls Rohingya return
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