Guterres says Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh need world's support


The international community must step up support for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims living in crowded camps in Bangladesh after fleeing a violent military crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar, said UN Secretary General Antonio Guteres on Monday.

"My appeal to the international community is to step up support," the UN chief tweeted after visiting refugee camps in south-eastern Bangladesh. "Nothing could've prepared me for the scale of crisis and extent of suffering I saw today in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. I heard heart-breaking accounts from Rohingya refugees that will stay with me forever," said Guterres, who visited the camps along with World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.

Guterres and Kim, who arrived in Bangladesh to advocate increased support for the refugees, flew to Cox's Bazar in the morning. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have taken shelter there after fleeing last year's brutal military crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar. They talked to a host of Rohingya Muslims at a community centre in Kutupalong.

Guterres later said he heard "unimaginable accounts of killing and rape from Rohingya refugees."

"It is unbelievable. My heart is broken," Guterres told reporters at the camp, adding that the refugees who crossed the border want justice and the ability to return home safely.

The duo also talked to members of aid agencies and local officials, said Kamal Hossain, head of the district administration.

Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee Fillipo Grandi are among others accompanying Guterres and Kim in the refugee camps.

About 700,000 Rohingya Muslims crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar's military launched a brutal clampdown on Muslim insurgents in Rakhine state began last August. During the fighting, several hundred people died and many women were raped.

The UN said the crackdown was a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

On top of last year's arrivals, Bangladesh has been hosting an additional 400,000 Rohingya Muslims for decades. They were driven from their homes in the 1970s, 1990s and in 2012.

A group of Rohingya refugees, braving rain, welcomed the UN chief at the camp. Television footage showed them holding banners and placards inscribing their demands for safe return to their homed in Myanmar.

Guterres, who met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday, praised Bangladesh for giving a safe haven to Rohingya refugees driven from their homes by "systematic and widespread violence."

"In a world where so many borders are closed, the people and government of Bangladeshi have opened their borders and received their brothers and sisters coming from Myanmar and from the terrible events there," Guterres said after the meeting with Hasina.    (dpa)

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