Dhaka, Jun 13 (bdnews24.com) – A global rights group on Wednesday urged Bangladesh to immediately open its border to people seeking refuge from sectarian violence in Myanmar.
New York-based Human Rights Watch made the appeal amid Bangladesh's refusal to allow Rohingyas from the neighbouring country in the wake of raging violence.
Anticipating an influx of refugees fleeing violence between Buddhists and Muslims in western Myanmar, Bangladesh has ordered its border guards, coast guards and local administration to heighten vigilance along its border with Myanmar.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said at a news conference in Dhaka that it was "not in our best interest that new refugees come from Myanmar".
Guards reportedly blocked hundreds of Rohingyas who attempted to enter Bangladesh over last three days.
But Human Rights Watch urges Bangladesh to change its position on humanitarian ground.
"By closing its border when violence in Arakan State is out of control, Bangladesh is putting lives at grave risk," said Bill Frelick, Refugee Program director at Human Rights Watch.
"Bangladesh has an obligation under international law to keep its border open to people fleeing threats to their lives and provide them protection," Frelick said in the New York-datelined statement.
The group argued that although Bangladesh is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, it is obligated by the customary international law principle of nonrefoulement not to reject asylum seekers at its border when they are fleeing threats to their lives or freedom.
It also called on Bangladesh to allow independent humanitarian agencies free and unfettered access to the border areas.
Other governments should provide humanitarian assistance and other support for the refugees, it said adding that they should also help in finding durable solutions both for the new arrivals and for the 29,000 registered and an estimated 200,000 unregistered Rohingya refugees from Myanmar already in Bangladesh.
"Bangladesh needs generous support right now from the international community to assist the refugees fleeing Arakan State and to find durable solutions later on," Frelick said.
"But Bangladesh can help itself by allowing immediate and full access to humanitarian agencies so they can provide life-saving assistance to desperate refugees."
Brutal violence in Arakan State between Buddhists and Muslims erupted on Jun 3 and has intensified since then.
Security forces have shot and killed an unknown number of Rohingya, and sectarian mobs from both groups have burned down the homes and businesses of the other.
On Jun 10, Myanmar's President Thein Sein issued a state of emergency in the area, ceding authority for law enforcement to the army.