Thu, Mar 01, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Rohingya flee ‘no man’s land’ after talks

Reuters, DHAKA and YANGON, Myanmar

Hindu refugee children play at a camp for refugees from Myanmar on Tuesday in Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Photo: AFP

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled a strip of land on the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh after the two nations met to discuss resettling them, an official and a community leader said.

The UN refugee agency has expressed concern that about 5,300 people who were staying in the area — outside of Myanmar’s border fence, but on Myanmar’s side of a creek that marks the international border — would be forcibly returned without due consideration for their safety.

Senior Bangladesh border guard official Major Iqbal Ahmed on Tuesday evening said that about half of the people who had been staying in area had entered Bangladesh and made their way to refugee camps in just more than a week.

“They are leaving the place in fear,” Iqbal Ahmed said. “Now there are roughly 2,500 to 3,000 people in the no man’s land. We talked to some of them and asked them to go back, but they said they can’t.”

Local officials from the two sides met on Tuesday last week and visited the area.

Dil Mohammed, a leader among the people who have been staying in the area, said that a meeting with community leaders promised by Burmese officials had not materialized, confirming that several hundred families had moved into Bangladesh since the meeting.

“We are in constant fear. We are not going to the camps,” he said, referring to temporary camps Myanmar has established to house possible returnees under a repatriation agreement it signed with Bangladesh in November last year.

“There’s no guarantee for life. We need security and all basic rights, including citizenship like other communities are granted by the Myanmar government,” Dil Mohammed said.

Burmese government spokesman Zaw Htay yesterday said that the area is Myanmar’s territory.

“According to the rules, they cannot stay there, 150 feet [46m] from the borderline. They stay there to create a situation where Myanmar security forces and government official will remove them,” he said.

“The media, especially Reuters, and human rights organizations would put pressure and make accusations that they are being cleared,” he said. “It is a trap to put more pressure on Myanmar, to make more criticism of Myanmar.”

After the meeting last week, Zaw Htay was quoted in Burmese-language media saying some of the people staying in the border area were “terrorists” linked to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army that attacked government security posts on Aug. 25 last year.

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