UNHCR urges Bangladesh to lift NGO ban in south-east

Briefing Notes, 7 August 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 7 August 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is appealing to the Government of Bangladesh to ensure that NGO assistance continues to be provided to unregistered people from Myanmar's Rakhine state. Last Thursday, three non-governmental organizations Médecins Sans Frontières, Action Contre La Faim and Muslim Aid UK were ordered by the Bangladeshi authorities to stop their activities in and around unofficial camps near Cox's Bazar in the south-east.

If the order is implemented, it will have a serious humanitarian impact on some 40,000 unregistered people who had fled Myanmar in recent years and settled in the Leda and Kutupalong makeshift sites. Local villagers nearby will also be affected as they, too, have been benefiting from basic services provided by the NGOs.

UNHCR is urging the Government of Bangladesh to reconsider its decision in line with its long tradition of hospitality towards people who have fled Myanmar over the years. In addition to the unregistered population, there are some 30,000 registered ones living in two official camps in Cox's Bazar.

Meanwhile in northern Rakhine state, we are watching developments closely following reports of renewed violence over the weekend. UNHCR has received unverified accounts of some villages being burnt in the Kyauk Taw township north of the state capital, Sittwe. Many of the young men have reportedly fled, leaving mainly women and children behind.

The UN and its humanitarian partners have drawn up a response plan to assist some 80,000 people who have been displaced or are otherwise affected in Rakhine state since inter-communal clashes broke out in early June. UNHCR has so far distributed emergency aid to more than 40,000 people in the form of plastic sheets, blankets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and kitchen sets. We are also mobilizing our stocks in Cox's Bazar and plan to deliver them by boat across the Naf river to Rakhine state once the clearances are in place.

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