UNHCR seeks open borders for people fleeing Rakhine

Dhaka – UNHCR, the refugee agency of the United Nations, has urged Bangladesh to open borders for people fleeing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, reports UNB.

“UNHCR believes it’s of the utmost importance that it (Bangladesh) continues to allow Rohingya fleeing violence to seek safety there,” said UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards on Tuesday at a press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The UNHCR also called on the international community to support Bangladesh in doing so, with all necessary aid and other help.

As of Sunday it was estimated that some 5,200 people have entered Bangladesh from Myanmar since Thursday, according to UNHCR statement a copy of which obtained by UNB.

The UNHCR mentioned that Bangladesh has hosted refugees from Myanmar for decades.

In light of the dramatic worsening since Friday of the situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, the UNHCR has communicated to the government of Bangladesh its readiness to support Bangladesh in helping refugees fleeing across the border.

Several thousand were reported to be in locations along the Myanmar side of the border, it said.

On the Bangladesh side of the border, some people are in cordoned off areas near the border, and others are mainly in Kutupalong area.

The UN agency said most are women, children, or the elderly, and there have been reports of wounded people among them.

Aid efforts involving the Bangladeshi authorities, local communities, UNHCR partners and NGOs have been under way, including arrangements of food, water, and medical help to the new arrivals.

“UNHCR is grateful to the Bangladeshi authorities for the support being provided. Rapid needs assessments are being planned, however with the precarious situation inside Myanmar we are concerned that numbers of people needing help may rise further over the coming days,” Edwards said.

The spokesperson said UNHCR is aware of several reported instances of people being prevented from entering Bangladesh. “This poses a very grave risk to the individuals affected.”

Meanwhile, in Myanmar’s Rakhine State access to populations in need of help is severely restricted. “We’re appealing to the Myanmar authorities to do everything possible to facilitate humanitarian help and ensure the safety of our staff,” Edwards said.