Over 430,000 who have managed to make it through the Bangladeshi border over the past few weeks are struggling without access to adequate food, water and medicine.

More than 420,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since August 25, when attacks by Rohingya militants in Rakhine state triggered a Myanmar crackdown that the UN has branded ethnic cleansing.
More than 420,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since August 25, when attacks by Rohingya militants in Rakhine state triggered a Myanmar crackdown that the UN has branded ethnic cleansing. ( Reuters )

Bangladesh needs "massive international assistance" to feed and shelter the over 430,000 Rohingya who have fled Myanmar in recent weeks, the head of the UN refugee agency said Sunday.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said there were "immense" challenges after visiting the overflowing camps around Cox's Bazar in southern Bangladesh.

"I was struck by the incredible magnitude of their needs. They need everything – they need food, they need clean water, they need shelter, they need proper health care," he told reporters.

TRT World's Shamim Chowdhury reports on the perilous journey that the Rohingya make. 

Registering the Rohingya

The UN said Sunday that over 430,000 Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority, had arrived from Myanmar's Rakhine state since the outbreak of violence there in August.

Grandi said the influx had slowed in recent days but it was impossible to tell whether more would come.

He also said his office was providing "technical assistance" to help Bangladesh register the Rohingya, whom Myanmar considers to be illegal immigrants. 

Bangladesh only recognises a tiny fraction of around 700,000 Rohingya living in camps near the border with Myanmar as refugees, referring to the rest as undocumented Myanmar nationals.

It has "no plan for the time being" to grant refugee status to the newly-arrived Rohingya, senior Bangladesh minister Amir Hossain Amu said on Sunday.

"We want Rohingya to return to their own land," said Amu, who chairs a cabinet committee on national security.

Bangladesh has begun providing the new arrivals with identity cards and recording their biometric data, a process that began last week and is expected to take several months to complete.

Over 430,000 refugees have been herded by the Bangladesh military into a handful of overstretched camps near the border with Myanmar, where tens of thousands live in the open without shelter.
Over 430,000 refugees have been herded by the Bangladesh military into a handful of overstretched camps near the border with Myanmar, where tens of thousands live in the open without shelter. ( Reuters )

Mobile phone ban 

Bangladesh has banned telecommunication companies from selling mobile phone connections to Rohingya refugees, citing security concerns for the latest restrictions, officials said on Sunday.

Bangladesh's four mobile phone providers were threatened with fines if they provide any of the newly-arrived refugees from Myanmar with phone plans while the ban is in force.

"For the time being, they (Rohingya) can't buy any SIM cards," Enayet Hossain, a senior officer at the telecoms ministry, said on Sunday.

The decision Saturday to impose a communication blackout on the stateless Muslim minority was justified for security reasons,  junior telecoms minister Tarana Halim said.

Bangladesh already prohibits the sale of SIM cards to its own citizens who cannot provide an official identity card, in a bid to frustrate the organisational capacity of homegrown militants.

"We took the step (of welcoming the Rohingya) on humanitarian grounds but at the same time our own security should not be compromised," Halim said, without elaborating on what specific risk the Rohingya posed.

Hindu mass grave found

Myanmar's army said on Sunday that a mass grave of 28 Hindus had been discovered in Rakhine state, blaming the killings on Rohingya militants.

"Security members found and dug up 28 dead bodies of Hindus who were cruelly violently and killed by ARSA extremist Bengali terrorists in Rakhine State," a statement posted on the army chief's website said.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) is the group whose raids on police posts in August triggered a military backlash that resulted in hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing for Bangladesh. 

Source: AFP