A UN refugee figure on Tuesday backed Turkey's request that Bangladesh open its borders to fleeing Rohingya Muslims, amid warnings that more people from the minority group were headed for the frontier.
UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokeswoman Duniya Aslam Khan and UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac spoke to Anadolu Agency on Tuesday in Geneva about the thousands of Rohingya Muslims trying to escape violence in Myanmar by crossing into Bangladesh.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday called on Bangladesh to open its frontier to the fleeing Rohingya from Myanmar’s western Rakhine state.
He said Ankara was urging Bangladesh to grant access to the Rohingya, saying Turkey would help pay to support the refugees.
Khan described Turkey’s move as a “very positive and encouraging initiative,” which set an example for other countries.
She said it was “high time” the world united to support those “uprooted and who are forced to flee their homes and live in a refugee situation”.
Khan said it was taking the refugees, on average, three days to reach the Bangladeshi border, adding many had no food, some lacked footwear and others had been reduced to drinking rainwater.
Noting that there could be 1.2 million Rohingya in Myanmar alone, Khan said: "We have reports that many more might be coming [to the Bangladeshi border]. Huge numbers of people have been displaced."
According to the UN on Tuesday, 123,600 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh since the latest violence began on Aug. 25.
UNICEF’s Boulierac said more than 80 percent of the Rohingya -- more than 100,000 people who crossed into Bangladesh -- were children and women.
Noting that many children in Rakhine state had been exposed to violence, Boulierac said they needed treatment.
Boulierac also said UNICEF operations had been temporary halted in northern Rakhine because of the violence.
However, later on Tuesday, Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Myanmar’s government had allowed Turkish aid workers to enter the conflict region.
Rakhine, which lies in western Myanmar, has seen simmering tension between its Buddhist and Muslim populations since communal violence broke out in 2012.
In a security crackdown launched last October in the state’s northern Maungdaw district, the UN documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including infants and young children -- brutal beatings and disappearances.
The report found evidence of human rights violations by security forces that indicated crimes against humanity.
Rohingya representatives have said that around 400 people were killed during the operation.
In recent weeks, the government has boosted military numbers in Maungdaw and the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) claimed responsibility for attacks in which the government said dozens were killed.
The ARSA said the attacks were in response to raids, killings and looting by soldiers.
Source: Anadolu Agency