Bangladesh has announced it would build one of the world’s biggest refugee camps to house all the 800,000-plus Rohingya Muslims who have fled persecution in Myanmar.
The arrival of more than half a million Rohingya Muslims from Buddhist-dominated Myanmar since 25 August has put an immense strain on camps in Bangladesh where there are growing fears of a disease epidemic.
A Bangladesh minister gave details of the mega camp as Myanmar’s army blamed Rohingya militants for setting fire to houses in troubled Rakhine state in recent days to intensify the exodus of the Muslim minority across the border, British newspaper Guardian reported.
Bangladesh authorities plan to expand a refugee camp at Kutupalong near the border town of Cox’s Bazar to accommodate the Rohingya.
Seven-hundred-and-ninety hectares of land (2,000 acres) next to the existing Kutupalong camp were set aside last month for the new Rohingya arrivals. But as the number of newcomers has exceeded 500,000 – adding to 300,000 already in Bangladesh – another 400 hectares (1,000 acres) has been set aside for the new camp.
Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, minister for disaster management and relief, said all the Rohingya would eventually be moved from 23 camps along the border and other makeshift camps around Cox’s Bazar to the new zone.
The UN has said the Myanmar army campaign against Rohingya Muslims was a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
The UN has labelled Burma’s refusal to grant access to Rakhine state – the scene of alleged ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims – as “unnacceptable”.
“The access we have in northern Rakhine state is unacceptable,” the head of the United Nations humanitarian office, Mark Lowcock, told reporters in Geneva.
He added he believed a “high level” UN team would be able to visit the region in “the next few days”.
Earlier this week, the UN warned of the immense pressure to accommodate refugees who have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, in an appeal for $430 million to provide aid for those displaced.