14,000 orphans among Rohingya refugees: Bangladesh
A new influx of Rohingya refugees that hit Bangladesh contains around 14,000 orphans, authorities say, as new details emerge of a brutal crackdown in neighboring Myanmar which forced over half a million Rohingya Muslims to flee their homes.
Bangladesh’s social services department said Sunday that some 13,751 children without a parent or parents were identified in the crowded refugee camps along the country’s border with Myanmar.
“The majority of them said they lost one or both parents in the violence in Rakhine,” said Pritam Kumar Chowdhury, a department deputy director, adding, “Others said they didn’t know what happened to their parents, and they came to Bangladesh with relatives.”
The United Nations says children comprise the bulk of the exodus of Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar since violence erupted in the country’s western state of Rakhine in late August. The total number of arrivals currently stands at 536,000, of which some 320,000 are children, one-third under five years of age.
The exodus began when the army and Buddhist mobs launched sweeping attacks on villages populated by Muslims to the north of Rakhine. The government rejected claims about torching of villages and killing of innocent residents, saying military forces were simply hunting for suspected militants who had carried out deadly attacks on border and police posts on August 25.
However, rights campaigners and international organizations have documented numerous accounts of gang rapes and massacres against the Rohingya Muslims as the refugees continue to recount the violence they suffered back home.
The UN and other agencies have also warned about humanitarian problems that could occur in crowded refugee camps in Bangladesh, especially given the high number of vulnerable children and women living in those areas. Bangladesh is building the world’s largest refugee camp in the area with plans in place for setting up an orphanage to deliver extra assistance and familial support to unaccompanied minors and those without a parent.