U.N. refugee agency alarmed by surge in fleeing Rohingya migrants

Oct. 10 (UPI) — The United Nations’ refugee agency expressed concern Tuesday for a sudden surge of thousands of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh this week — some having walked for two weeks to get there.

More than 11,000 Rohingya Muslims, a minority in Myanmar facing persecution, crossed into Bangladesh at several crossing points, the U.N. agency said.

“We are back in a situation of full alert as far as influxes are concerned,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Adrian Edwards told reporters in Switzerland Tuesday. “It is a big increase to see 11,000.”

Rohingya are fleeing widespread killings and the burning of their villages in Myanmar, in what U.N. officials have called a full-blown humanitarian crisis. One boy who crossed into Bangladesh Monday had a large gash across his neck, the UNHCR said. Others said they anticipated violence from Myanmar police and security forces.

“To reach Bangladesh, they walked for up to 14 days,” Edwards added in a statement Tuesday. “Many were carrying children and baskets containing whatever they could pack at short notice. They waded through marshland before swimming across the Naf river that divides the two countries. Many women and children could not swim and had to ride piggyback on volunteer swimmers.”

The newly-arrived migrants are being housed at transit centers established by the refugee agency, Edwards said.

A dozen people, 10 of them children, drowned last weekend when their boat capsized as they escaped Myanmar on the Naf River, which separates Myanmar and Bangladesh. The sinking followed a number of similar incidents since August.

More than a half-million Rohingya have fled Myanmar in the last two months due to suspected ethnic cleansing by Myanmar authorities. One million refugees from Myanmar could enter Bangladesh by the end of the year, the United Nations said in September.

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