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Bangladesh tells U.N. it won't accept more Rohingya from Myanmar

By Nicholas Sakelaris
A Rohingya refugee holds her child in a makeshift camp in Bangladesh. Photo by Hein Htet/EPA-EFE
A Rohingya refugee holds her child in a makeshift camp in Bangladesh. Photo by Hein Htet/EPA-EFE

March 1 (UPI) -- After accepting more than 1 million Myanmar refugees, Bangladesh now says it cannot accept any more Rohingya refugees.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar since 2017 when the military began what the United Nations has termed an "ethnic cleansing" that's killed thousands. An estimated 700,000 Rohingya fled across the border into Bangladesh, where many continue to live in camps.

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Bangladesh has been praised for keeping its borders open for the refugees but the camps have become too overcrowded and the situation has gone from "bad to worse," Bangladesh foreign secretary Shahidul Haque told the U.N. security council Thursday. Haque said the country is frustrated the United Nations hasn't taken greater action to resolve the crisis.

"I regret to inform the council that Bangladesh would no longer be in a position to accommodate more people from Myanmar," Haque said. "Is Bangladesh paying the price for being responsive and responsible in showing empathy to a persecuted minority population of a neighboring country?"

Christine Schraner Burgener, the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Envoy, said the world body must focus on the root causes in Myanmar and fully fund a joint response plan.

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"While Bangladesh and host communities have been very generous, we cannot expect this to continue indefinitely," she said.

An attempt last year to return Rohingya to Myanmar failed when the government refused to guarantee their safety or a return to their original homes. Many refugees went went into hiding and none have yet opted to return to Rakhine State.

Myanmar U.N. ambassador Hau Do Suan said there were "huge" physical and psychological barriers to overcome before repatriation can begin.

"We are confident that we can make the repatriation plan a success if we both act strictly in compliance with the agreements," he said.

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