Rohingya refugees who have fled violence in Myanmar for shelter in neighbouring Bangladesh are in desperate need of help, UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi has said, as he called on the Myanmar authorities to halt the violence.
Grandi, who returned on Tuesday night from a trip to Bangladesh, said: “They have absolutely nothing… Evidently they had to flee from a very urgent situation, from very sudden violence — so they need everything.”
Rohingyas have spoken of their homes being torched and of neighbours turning on neighbours, CNN reported.
According to the latest report from the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) in Bangladesh, at least 480,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since clashes began in Myanmar’s Rakhine state on August 25.
Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that including some 300,000 Rohingya refugees already in Bangladesh, between 700,000 and 800,000 people were now sheltering there in overcrowded and insanitary conditions, posing a risk of epidemics.
On top of that, he warned that “the risk of the spread of terrorist violence in the whole region was very, very high” if the situation was not resolved.
“It is very clear that the cause of this crisis is in Myanmar, but the solution of this crisis also lies in Myanmar,” Grandi said.
The Myanmar authorities have said the August violence in Rakhine state was instigated by Rohingya militants and deny UN accusations of “ethnic cleansing”.
Grandi, who visited Rakhine state in July, condemned the insurgent attacks that left 12 police officers dead the following month.
But he stressed that underdevelopment in Rakhine state — and particularly the poor treatment of the Rohingya Muslims — had played a large part in the current crisis.
He called on the Myanmar authorities to implement the recommendations of a UN advisory panel headed by former UN chief Kofi Annan.
Two key points were the lack of citizenship for Rohingya in Myanmar and the “dramatic underdevelopment” of Rakhine state, affecting both Buddhist and Muslim communities, he said.
Grandi said he hoped to discuss the issue of Rohingya statelessness with Myanmar authorities at a meeting in Geneva next week.