At least 6,000 Rohingya civilians fleeing renewed violence in Myanmar are stranded near the border with Bangladesh which is blocking their entry, a senior Bangladeshi official said Tuesday, as the United Nations urged Dhaka to assist them.
Bangladesh has blocked thousands of civilians from the stateless Muslim minority from entering the country since Friday, when fresh fighting broke out between Myanmar’s security forces and Rohingya militants in neighboring Rakhine state.
The UN refugee agency says 3,000 have managed to cross into Bangladesh in the past three days, but the vast majority have been stopped at the border despite heavy fighting in nearby villages.
“Around 6,000 Myanmar nationals have gathered on the border and are trying to enter Bangladesh,” a senior Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) official said, referring to the Rohingya. The official said the situation across the border, which is demarcated in parts by narrow stretches of the Naf River, was “still volatile”.
Another BGB official estimated the number of Rohingya in limbo could exceed 10,000, as many were believed to be hiding in the hills and forests to escape nearby violence.
“We’ve been ordered not to allow Rohingya to enter Bangladesh,” said one border guard, who asked to remain anonymous as he was not permitted to speak to media. “But how can I deny shelter to this newborn who is dying from cold?”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on Bangladesh to step up assistance to civilians escaping the violence, noting “many of those fleeing are women and children, some of whom are wounded”. But there are already 400,000 Rohingya living in squalid camps in Bangladesh and the government has instructed its border guards to prevent another influx at all costs.