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Bangladesh says Rohingya arrivals 'untenable' as thousands arrive daily
2 hours ago
Delegates attend a pledging conference to help Rohingya Muslims on Mondayat the United Nations (UN) Office in Geneva. The UN hosts a pledging conference to raise some of the more than $400 million humanitarian groups say is needed to help Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence in Myanmar to Bangladesh. — AFP
GENEVA — Nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees have fled violence in Myanmar, an "untenable situation" for neighbor Bangladesh, the country's UN envoy said on Monday, calling on Myanmar to let them return.

About 600,000 people have crossed the border since Aug. 25, when insurgent attacks on security posts were met by a ferocious counter-offensive by the Myanmar army in Rakhine state, which the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing.

"This is the biggest exodus from a single country since the Rwandan genocide in 1994," Shameem Ahsan, Bangladesh's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told a UN pledging conference.

"Despite claims to the contrary, violence in Rakhine state has not stopped. Thousands still enter on a daily basis," he said.

Bangladesh's interior minister was in Yangon on Monday for talks to find a "durable solution", Ahsan said. But Myanmar continued to issue "propaganda projecting Rohingyas as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh", Ahsan said, adding: "This blatant denial of the ethnic identity of Rohingyas remains a stumbling block."

Myanmar considers the Rohingya to be stateless, although they trace their families' presence in the country for generations.

The United Nations has appealed for $434 million to provide life-saving aid to 1.2 million people for six months. "We need more money to keep pace with intensifying needs. This is not an isolated crisis, it is the latest round in a decades-long cycle of persecution, violence and displacement," UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the talks.

"Children, women and men fleeing Myanmar are streaming into Bangladesh traumatized and destitute," he added. "We assess we have pledges of around $340 million," Lowcock said before the mid-day break in the meeting.

New pledges included 30 million euros announced by the European Union, $15 million by Kuwait, 10 million Australian dollars by Australia and 12 million pounds from Britain.

He reiterated the UN call on Myanmar to allow "full humanitarian access across Rakhine" where aid agencies have been denied entry.

Myanmar must "guarantee the right to safe, voluntary and dignified return so that the Rohingya can live in peace with their human rights upheld in Rakhine", Lowcock said.

The pledging conference in Geneva, co-hosted by the European Union and Kuwait, is part of an effort to raise $434 million (370 million euros) by February 2018.

A total of $100 million had been delivered or promised before the conference opened, and the EU pledged an addition 30 million euros on Monday.

"We are here today because, sadly, the needs are even greater than we can provide with our current resources," the deputy chief of the World Food Program, Elisabeth Rasmusson, told the conference. "On behalf of the people we are trying to help, we must ask you for more." — Reuters

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