“The situation is desperate for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh,” said Lynn Yoshikawa, of Refugees International.
In its report, “Bangladesh: The Silent Crisis,” Refugees International said hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled repression in Burma have no protection from abuse, starvation and detention in Bangladesh because of a lack of documentation.
The plight of the Rohingyas was recently noted by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a speech in Berlin early this month. “In Burma, ethnic Rohingya Muslims continue to be denied full citizenship and equal opportunities for education, employment and travel,” Clinton said at the Rathenau Prize ceremony in Berlin on April 15.
“They live in squalor and are forced to suffer a litany of abuses because the government doesn’t recognize them as refugees,” said Yoshikawa, who recently returned from visiting Rohingya camps in the region.
The report called on the international community to urge the Bangladeshi government to register undocumented refugees and improve protection for all vulnerable Rohingyas, adding that donor governments must also work to restart and increase resettlement of refugees to third countries and increase assistance for communities hosting refugees.
“Donor governments should rapidly mobilize US $2 million to meet the World Food Program’s funding gap to ensure the provision of full food rations in the official refugee camps this year,” it said.
According to the report, approximately 800,000 Rohingyas live in three townships in northern Arakan State in Burma. Rohingya children are three times more likely to die before their fifth birthday than other children in Burma, and malnutrition rates frequently exceed emergency levels, the report said.
The World Food Program reported that food security in the region had worsened over the past two years, with two-thirds of the population going hungry.
Giving a graphic description of the plight of the Rohingyas, Refugees International said Rohingyas there are often arrested while collecting firewood in the nearby national forest or while working.
If they are unable to pay a bribe or obtain a guarantee from a Bangladesh national for their immediate release, refugees are often charged with illegal entry and sent to jail. Refugees International said that detained Rohingyas routinely have to pay a bribe of between $110 and $400 for their release, forcing many families into heavy debt.