Bangladesh Turns Away 1,500 Refugees from Burma

By Associated Press 12 June 2012

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh refused three big boats carrying about 1,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Burma as they approached land Tuesday, after 500 refugees were turned back in recent days, officials said.

“They have been chased away,” police official Jahangir Alam said by phone on Saint Martins Island, a Bay of Bengal isle the boats approached. “We are keeping our eyes open so that nobody can enter Bangladesh illegally.”

Afterward, administrators arranged announcements by loudspeakers for islanders to be vigilant to prevent Rohingya Muslims from entering Bangladesh, said Nurul Amin, a local government official in the island.

Bangladesh said earlier it sent back 11 boats over the past three days packed with about 500 Rohingya Muslims fleeing Burma. Local authorities in Bangladesh’s border districts have been asked to remain alert and increase vigilance.

A Foreign Ministry statement said the neighboring countries are maintaining close contacts to ensure that developments in Burma’s Arakan State do not have any “transboundary spillover”.

Violence between Buddhists and minority Muslims have left at least 12 people dead and burned down hundreds of homes since Friday.

The United Nations’ refugee agency estimates 800,000 Rohingya live in Arakan State. Burma considers them illegal immigrants, effectively rendering them stateless. Rights groups say they face extortion, land confiscation, forced evictions, and other human rights abuses, and thousands attempt to flee Burma annually.

Bangladesh says Rohingya have been living in Burma for centuries and Burma should recognize them as citizens.

In the 1990s, about 250,000 Rohyngya Muslims fled to Bangladesh in the face of alleged persecution by the military junta.

Later, Burma took back most of them, leaving some 28,000 in two camps run by the government and the United Nations.

Bangladesh has been unsuccessfully negotiating with Burma for years to send them back and, in the meantime, tens of thousands of others have entered Bangladesh illegally in recent years.

Dear Readers:The Irrawaddywelcomes your opinions and views on the issue in Arakan State, irrespective of your race, religion or bias. However, we cannot publish and will not tolerate those who use offensive language or racial insults, or those who try to spread propaganda or who incite violence.Please use this forum respectfully.

The Irrawaddy Team