UNHCR says on 'full alert' as 11,000 Rohingya flee in a day

Rohingya refugees arrive on a boat after crossing the Naf river from Myanmar into Bangladesh in Whaikhyang on Oct 9, 2017.
Rohingya refugees arrive on a boat after crossing the Naf river from Myanmar into Bangladesh in Whaikhyang on Oct 9, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA/COX'S BAZAR, BANGLADESH (REUTERS, AFP) - Bangladesh border guards reported more than 11,000 Rohingya refugees crossing into their country from Myanmar on Monday (Oct 9), the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday. 

“We’re back in a situation of full alert as far as influxes are concerned. It is a big increase to see 11,000,” Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a news briefing in Geneva. 

“UNHCR is working with the Bangladesh authorities on a transit centre to prepare for a potential refugee influx in the coming days,” he said. 

More than half a million refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since Aug 25, fleeing a military crackdown that followed attacks by Rohingya militants on police posts.

The exodus had slowed, but in recent days government officials say there have been thousands of fresh arrivals, most coming from parts of Myanmar's Rakhine state that are far from the border with Bangladesh.

 

Meanwhile in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, police said the bodies of another nine refugees have washed up after an overloaded boat carrying scores of desperate Rohingya sank in rough seas, taking the confirmed death toll to 23.

Eight bodies were found on the banks of the Naf river, which separates Bangladesh from Myanmar, and another was found kilometres away on the island of St Martin.

More than half of the victims in the latest disaster were children, said Mian Uddin, police chief for the border town of Teknaf.

He could not say how many people were missing, but survivors and officials have said the boat was carrying between 60 and 100 people. So far 15 have been rescued by Bangladesh coast guards and border guards, though authorities say some may have swum to Myanmar.

Many cross the Naf river at its narrowest point, but others are attempting to make the journey by sea, boarding often rickety fishing trawlers that are wholly inadequate for the rough waters in the Bay of Bengal. Nearly 160 have drowned.

Among the latest influx were two young boys aged two and three, who died due to hunger and exhaustion as they entered Bangladesh.

"Their parents told us that they died due to starvation. They walked seven days and did not have anything to eat," Sultan Ahmed, a local councillor at Anjumanpara border village, told AFP.