More than quarter of a million Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar within 15 days, says UN

Most of the 270,000 Rohingyas who have escaped to Bangladesh are women and children, says the UN refugee agency.

Who are the Rohingya and why are so many fleeing Myanmar?Newsweek

More than a quarter of a million Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh within 15 days, said the UN's refugee arm in a report released on Friday, 8 September.

Due to the escalating conflict in the restive Rakhine state in Myanmar, formerly Burma, the mass exodus of the Rohingya Muslims sharply increased in August. Clashes between militants and Myanmar's armed forces have also increased with no end in sight so far.

"The two refugee camps in Cox's Bazar in southeast Bangladesh – home to nearly 34,000 Rohingya refugees before this influx – are now bursting at the seams. The population has more than doubled in two weeks, totalling more than 70,000. There is an urgent need for more land and shelters," the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in a press statement.

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"The vast majority are women, including mothers with newborn babies, families with children. They arrive in poor condition, exhausted, hungry and desperate for shelter," added the report.

The latest estimate of about 270,000 refugees roughly makes up a third of the entire Rohingya population in Myanmar, though the exact numbers are not released by the government. The latest round of influx was triggered by attacks by militants and army's counter-insurgency measures in late August.

"This [the refugee figures] does not necessarily reflect fresh arrivals within the past 24 hours but that we have identified more people in different areas that we were not aware of before. The numbers are so alarming. It really means we have to step up our response and that the situation in Myanmar has to be addressed urgently," the UN refugee agency's spokesperson Vivian Tan told the AFP news agency.

The ethnic Rohingyas, who have been persecuted in a systematic manner for the past few years in Myanmar, are often considered as a stateless minority and are branded illegal immigrants in the Buddhist-majority country.

A Rohingya refugee child falls as she walks through the water after crossing the border, in Teknaf, BangladeshMohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

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