Refugee agency seeks detail on “return” of Myanmar displaced
Any move to return Rohingya refugees now in Bangladesh to Myanmar can only take place if it is appropriate to do so and they wish to go home, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday.
The development follows reported discussions between the two countries over the fate of more than half a million mainly women and children who fled Myanmar amid a security operation.
Myanmar forces began their sweep of northern Rakhine state after attacks on police posts in late August.
Here’s UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic:
“We obviously would like to hear about the details of these bilateral discussions and get further clarifications about what the arrangements may be. I’d like to stress that for us the key principle of voluntariness of returns has to be upheld and obviously the returns would have to be conducted in a safe and orderly manner and the conditions on the ground have to be conducive for something like that.”
In southern Bangladesh, UNHCR said it is working to contain an outbreak of diarrhoeal disease among refugees, amid what it has called “an increasing trend” of sickness.
In coming days, the agency aims to open five health centres to treat the sick, as well as oral rehydration centres throughout the huge Kutupalong camp - home to 507,000 refugees who’ve arrived since 25 August.
The agency is also supporting a cholera vaccination programme for the displaced that’s being led by the government of Bangladesh.
Fresh Iraqi displacement expected in bid to drive out ISIL from northern town
Thousands of civilians are expected to flee clashes linked to the ongoing bid to drive ISIL fighters from northern Iraq, the UN said on Tuesday.
In the last two weeks, at least 12,500 civilians have left sparsely-populated areas of Hawija district, reportedly paying up to US$ 250 to smugglers to help them.
This number is set to spike in the next 24 to 48 hours as Iraqi troops push into more densely populated areas.
OCHA, the UN humanitarian coordinating agency, said that there could be as many as 78,000 people in Hawija town.
Here’s spokesperson Jens Laerke:
“We remain concerned for the lives and well-being of these vulnerable civilians and remind those doing the fighting that civilians must be protected at all times and allowed to safely leave Hawija.”
Mr Laerke said that most people leaving the conflict zone fled west towards Salah-al Din.
Some had walked for 12 hours, wading or swimming across the Little Zab river before reaching safety.
Alarm over DRC mass refugee flight to Zambia
Growing violence in south-east Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has forced 3,500 people to flee to Zambia in the last month – the highest single influx in five years.
Issuing the warning, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said that growing insecurity may lead to further displacement from Haut-Katanga and Tanganyika.
Those arriving in Zambia have spoken of “extreme brutality”, with civilians killed, women raped and houses set alight.
UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said that Zambia has taken in more than 27,000 people from DRC.
Six in 10 of the displaced are children:
“Malnutrition, respiratory problems, dysentery and skin infections are common among the refugees, who are in urgent need of protection and life-saving support.”
Many of those now in Zambia had already fled violence in DRC, where clashes in the central Kasais regions between local militia and Congolese forces began more than a year ago.
Inside DRC, nearly four million people remain displaced by violence.
The vast country also has nearly four million refugees from Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and Central African Republic.
Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva