Bangladesh has told three international aid agencies not to help thousands of Muslim Rohingya refugees who have been fleeing into its territory to escape violence in neighbouring strife-torn Myanmar.
Joynul Bari, a district deputy commissioner, told Bangladeshi media, their helping hand is encouraging Rohingya refugees to cross from Myanmar into the country.
Some 100,000 people, both Bangladeshis and Rohingya refugees, depend on the services of France's Médecins Sans Frontières, British-based Muslim Aid and Action Against Hunger.
Aid agencies fear that conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh are about to deteriorate even further as a result of the ban.
The government has banned operations of three international NGOs in Ukhia and Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar on charges of illegally providing aid to the unregistered Rohingyas who cross the border of Myanmar and live in bordering Bangladesh.
The NGOs include France’s Doctors without Borders (MSF) and Actions Against Hunger (ACF) and Britain’s Muslim Aid.
“Any NGO wishing to work in the bordering areas requires approval of the NGO Affairs Bureau. These three NGOs have not taken such approval,” said Joynul Bari, deputy commissioner of Cox’s Bazar.
The government order banning NGO activities in Cox’s Bazar came when hundreds of Rohingyas were trying to enter Bangladesh after sectarian violence in Myanmar’s Rakhaine state that left around 80 dead in June and July.
Bangladesh authorities, however, pushed back the Rohingyas seeking shelter in Bangladesh. These issues have drawn criticism from various rights bodies, but Bangladesh said the global community should put pressure on Myanmar to address the longstanding Rohingya problems.
According to Bangladesh government, there are 30,000 registered Rohingyas in two camps in Cox’s Bazar. Apart from that, estimated 5 lakh unregistered Rohingyas live in Cox’s Bazar and neighboring districts.
Joynul Bari said in the bordering areas these NGOs were operating anti-state activities and campaigning against Bangladesh in the international media that led to the ban of their operations, according to a correspondent in Cox’s Bazar.
“In two to three days, they will close their office and leave the area,” Bari said, complaining that the charities have been encouraging an influx of the Rohingyas from Myanmar.
S M Asrafuzzaman, director of NGO Affairs Bureau, however, told The Daily Star the Bureau has asked the NGOs to stop their unapproved projects in Cox’s Bazar, not the aid services among the registered Rohingya refugees.
Contacted, Mahtabi Zaman, media and communication officer of Muslim Aid UK, Bangladesh field office, said the charity under one project has been providing life saving products like drinking water and medicine to both the poor Bangladeshis and unregistered Rohingyas who were in urgent need.
However, Muslim Aid UK had another approved project on primary and technical education meant for the Bangladeshis. This approved project was also was ordered to be stopped, she told The Daily Star.
Contacted, an official of MSF said she would not make any comment on the issue.
Teknaf Upazila Nirbahi Officer ANM Nazim Uddin said Muslim Aid has already stopped their operation there and the other two were preparing to wrap up. “Otherwise, legal actions will be taken against them.”