Agencies, United Nations
Humanitarian conditions in camps hosting Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are set to worsen in the next few months, a human rights investigator has told, while also raising concerns about a plan to repatriate the fleeing minority back to Myanmar.
In an interview from Balukhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Yanghee Lee, a UN special rapporteur who was banned from visiting Myanmar, said that with Bangladesh’s monsoon season approaching, the crammed camps “will be witnessing landslides and we may see a huge number of casualties”.
Lee also warned of the possibility of an “outbreak of diseases” that would spread due to heavy rainfall, which may become “impossible to contain from spreading elsewhere”.
The UN envoy was to visit Myanmar in January to assess the state of human rights across the country, including in Rakhine state, where a brutal military crackdown has sent more than 650,000 minority Rohingya fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh.
People fleeing the violence have told of a systematic campaign of mass killings, rape and arson. The UN has described the situation as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
Lee took up the rights monitoring role in 2014, and is required to visit Myanmar two times a year in order to report to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly.
She was banned last month from conducting her investigation. In the interview with Al Jazeera, Lee urged the international community to aid in dispersing the overcrowded camps in Bangladesh. “The concentration of people ... it’s just not human”.
As part of the repatriation deal signed by the two Asian neighbours in November last year, Bangladesh and Myanmar officials agreed last week on plans to facilitate the return, over the next two years, of those displaced.
Some 1,550 refugees will be sent back each week, which will add up to approximately 156,000 over a period of two years.But Lee said the situation in Myanmar is not conducive for refugees to return.