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Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Bdnews24.com

The head of the UN's refugee agency António Guterres arrived in Dhaka Monday on a two-day visit to address the Rohingya refugee crisis, an official of UNHCR in Dhaka said.

Nirupoma Nahar told bdnews24.com that Guterres reached Bangladesh as scheduled in the morning.

During his two-day visit, Guterres will hold talks with the government to find a solution to the plight of some 27,000 Rohingya refugees, a statement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Dhaka said Sunday.

The UNHCR chief is expected to pass a day at a refugee camp, the statement said.

In the early 1990s, a huge number of Rohingya refugees flooded the country as the military regime in Myanmar carried out a massive crackdown on the Muslims living in the Arakan state of the Southeast Asian country.

The Rohingyas have been languishing in refugee camps in Cox's Bazar for 16 years, unwilling to go back to their homeland Myanmar for fear of persecution by the military junta.

The UNHCR and the government jointly registered some 2.58 lakh as refugees in 1992.

A host country cannot force refugees to return according to UN-backed procedure. They can be repatriated only if they voluntarily return to their homeland.

Bangladesh's main concern has been with maintaining law and order in the camps in the coastal district.

Apart from the Muslim Rohingyas, there are hundreds of Buddhist Myanmar refugees who mostly live in Dhaka and support the struggle of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Neighbouring countries, including Thailand, have also sheltered refugees who have fled alleged persecution by the Myanmar junta.

Currently some 27,000 Rohingyas live in Bangladesh's camps while the rest returned to Myanmar under the UNHCR sponsorship. But there are some 10,000 unregistered Rohingya refugees without water supplies and basic sanitation facilities.

They presently have shelter in a reserved forest in Cox's Bazar district, but if they were recognised as refugees, they would have a right to better living conditions including rations and other basics.

Bangladesh has refused to entertain a request by UNHCR to give the unregistered Rohingyas refugee status, saying it cannot encourage illegal crossing of Myanmar people to Bangladesh territory.

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