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Bangladesh, Myanmar to form 'working group' on refugee crisis

07 October 2017, 12:40 | Marta Robbins

Fleeing for their lives

A Bangladeshi soldier gestures as a Rohingya refugee child waits to receive his daily meal at a food distribution in Balukhali refugee camp near Gumdhum

The United Nations (UN) has slammed Myanmar's refusal to grant humanitarian access to Rakhine State as "unacceptable", saying the flight of terror-hit Rohingya Muslims out of the region continues.

"The Rohingya have faced decades of persecution and targeted violence in Myanmar, but the recent attacks that began just over a month ago are of an entirely new scale and level of inhumanity", Refugees International President Eric Schwartz.

The Rohingya are regarded as illegal immigrants in Myanmar and most are stateless, but authorities reject any suggestion of ethnic cleansing.

"This flow out of Myanmar has not stopped yet, it's into the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya (who are) still in Myanmar, we want to be ready in case there is a further exodus", said the UN's under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Mark Lowcock, in a Friday press briefing in Geneva.

The violence, backed by radical Buddhist monks, has left scores of Rohingya villages torched and completely destroyed.

Cox's Bazar's Civil Surgeon Sheikh Abdus Salam, meanwhile, said though the country earlier almost eradicated several risky diseases, those could return with the Rohingya influx from Myanmar's Rakhine state.

Aid agencies have warned of a malnutrition crisis with about 281,000 people in Bangladesh in urgent need of food, including 145,000 children under five and more than 50,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women.

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Global aid groups fear tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who remain in northern parts of Rakhine are in urgent need of food, medicine and shelter after over a month of military operations.

Cholera is a risk, amid fears of disease spreading in the rain-drenched camps where aid workers are trying to install sanitation systems, a spokesman for the World Health Organisation said.

Mr Lowcock said the access given to humanitarian workers in northern Rakhine state, where the crisis is centred, is "unacceptable".

Addressing a joint press event, Tusk said the two sides wanted de-escalation of tensions and full adherence to global obligations in Myanmar and access of people to humanitarian aid.

He added he believed a "high level" United Nations team would be able to visit the region in "the next few days".

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's leader, was criticised for not doing more to intervene - but has since spoken out against any human rights abuses.

"Myanmar has made a proposal to take back the Rohingya refugees", the minister told reporters.



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