Rakhine violence could effectively empty Myanmar state of its ethnic Muslim minority
Rohingya refugees protect themselves from the rain in Bangladesh's Balukhali refugee camp on Sept. 17, 2017. The UN says up to 1 million Rohingya refugees could flee to Bangladesh from Myanmar’s Rakhine State if violence against the Muslim minority continues. (Photo by Dominique Faget/AFP)
Up to 1 million Rohingya Muslim refugees — or the entire minority’s population in Myanmar’s Rakhine State — could flood into Bangladesh by the end of the year, senior U.N. officials have warned.
Almost 400,000 refugees have fled into southeastern Bangladesh since Aug. 25 amid an upsurge in violence in Rakhine, U.N. officials said last week, adding that the number could go much higher.
As many as 10,000 to 20,000 refugees were crossing the border every day, Radio Free Asia reported them as saying.
"We have to estimate the worst case is a scenario where everybody goes out [of Rakhine]," Mohammed Abdiker Mohamud, director of operations and emergencies for the International Organization of Migration (IOM), the U.N.’s migration agency, said at a recent press briefing in Bangladesh.
The 400,000 refugees who arrived in Bangladesh during recent weeks represent more than a third of Rakhine’s Muslim population, based on figures in a report published last month by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, a body appointed by Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and headed by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
These new refugees also bring the total Rohingya population in southeastern Bangladesh to more than 800,000, including those who fled earlier violence in Rakhine.
Asked whether the international community had done enough to respond to the situation," Mohamud replied, "My honest opinion is not yet."
"Are we looking at 600,000? Are we looking 700,000? Are we looking at a million people arriving before end of this year?" the IOM official said.
When the exodus began, aid agencies predicted that as many as 80,000 refugees could cross into Bangladesh, but more than four times that figure have arrived from Rakhine in less than a month, Mohamud said.
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