By Fatih Erel
The spokesman of the UN Refugee Agency on Friday warned of the conditions of refugee camps in Bangladesh as Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar edged towards half a million.
"The camps are overpopulated, they are bursting...there are risk of diseases," Andrej Mahecic told a news conference at the UN Headquarters in Geneva.
"As the number of Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar edges towards half a million, the UN Refugee Agency is stepping up delivery of live-saving aid to desperate people camped out near two official refugee camps in southeastern Bangladesh," Mahecic said.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Fillipo Grandi, will be in Bangladesh as of Saturday for three days "to get a firsthand grasp of the scale of the crisis, meet refugees, and see UNHCR’s continued ramping up of its response to support Bangladesh," the spokesman added.
Also speaking at the conference, the UN migration agency, IOM spokesman Joel Millman said that with the recent arrivals, the total number of Rohingya people in Bangladesh had reached 803,000.
Millman said the country had already been hosting 300,000 Rohingya Muslims when an additional 74,000 people arrived after the incident in October 2016, referring to attacks on border posts in Rakhine's Maungdaw district. This was followed by a five-month security crackdown, which, according to Rohingya groups, left around 400 people dead.
A further 429,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived into Bangladesh after the recent outbreak of violence, Milman added recalling a fresh security operation in Myanmar's Rakhine State in which security forces and Buddhist mobs have killed men, women and children, looted homes and torched Rohingya villages since Aug. 25.
According to Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hasan Mahmood Ali, around 3,000 Rohingya have been killed in the crackdown.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.