The Bangladesh government has ordered three international humanitarian groups to stop providing food, medicine and other relief to Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Burma.
France's Doctors without Borders (MSF) and Action Against Hunger (ACF) as well as Britain's Muslim Aid UK have been told to suspend their services in the Cox's Bazaar district bordering Burma, local administrator Joynul Bari told Agency France Presse. He said he was following a directive from the country’s NGO Affairs Bureau.
“The charities have been providing aid to tens of thousands of undocumented Rohingya refugees illegally. We asked them to stop all their projects in Cox's Bazaar,” he said.
He said the food, medicine and other material encourages an influx of Rohingya refugees to cross the border, which is officially closed, in the wake of recent sectarian violence that left at least 77 people dead.
Bangladesh has come under a barrage of international criticism for the closing of the border, which violates accepted international standards in dealing with refugees fleeing danger or persecution, say aid groups.
The charities have provided healthcare, training, emergency food and drinking water to the refugees living in Cox's Bazaar since the early 1990s.
MSF runs a clinic near one of the Rohingya camps which provides services to 100,000 people, said AFP.
Speaking a Bengali dialect similar to one in southeast Bangladesh, the Rohingyas are Muslims, who are seen as illegal immigrants by the Buddhist-majority Burmaese government and by many Burmese, who consider them illegal aliens, who are denied citizenship in Burma and most other rights.
They are viewed by the United Nations as one of the world's most persecuted minorities.
Obaidur Rahman, country head of Muslim Aid UK in Bangladesh, confirmed to AFP that his group had stopped its Rohingya project following the order.
The government said some 300,000 Rohingya Muslims live in the country, mostly in Cox's Bazaar, after fleeing persecution in Burma. About 30,000 are registered refugees who live in two camps run by the United Nations. Last week, the foreign minister and prime minister repeated claims that Bangladesh see the Royingya population as a burden it cannot afford.
Burmese security forces opened fire on Rohingya Muslims, committed rape and stood by as rival mobs attacked each other during the recent wave of sectarian violence, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Wednesday.
The authorities failed to protect both Muslims and Buddhists and then “unleashed a campaign of violence and mass roundups against the Rohingya,” the group said in the report.