Bangladesh’s prime minister has called on the UN and the international community to pressure Myanmar’s government to allow the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled recent violence in the Buddhist-majority nation.
Sheikh Hasina, while on a visit to the Kutupalong refugee camp on Tuesday, said Bangladesh would offer the refugees temporary shelter and aid, but that Myanmar should soon “take their nationals back”.
Around 370,000 of Myanmar’s minority Rohingya population have fled the country’s western state of Rakhine into neighbouring Bangladesh in recent weeks, according to the UN.
The violence began on August 25, after Rohingya fighters attacked police posts, prompting a military crackdown.
“In our parliament, we have taken a resolution that Myanmar should take all their citizens back to their country and create a congenial atmosphere so that they can go back,” said Hasina.
The crisis has drawn sharp criticism from around the world.
On Tuesday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the killing of Muslims a political disaster for Myanmar.
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein denounced the situation in Myanmar as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” on Monday.
Britain and Sweden have requested that the UN Security Council hold an urgent meeting on Wednesday to address the Rohingya situation.
‘They will kill us’
Aid workers in Bangladesh say they are trying to increase the relief effort, but thousands of refugees are pouring in every day.
“The needs are massive,” said Corinne Ambler, spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “We are scaling up as fast as we can, but we need international assistance to help these people.”
Al Jazeera’s Divya Gopalan, reporting from Katupalong near the border town of Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar district, said: “The refugees are in distress, and after fleeing their country, they now have to face tough conditions in the makeshift camps.”
The UN describes the Rohingya as the world’s most persecuted people.
The Rohingya have been denied citizenship in Myanmar since 1982, which has effectively rendered them stateless.
Having fled the recent surge in violence, many fear for their lives back home in Myanmar.
“If we go back they will kill us,” Rahima Begum, a 24-year-old Rohingya refugee, told Al Jazeera. “How can I forget, I’ve seen babies being thrown into the fire by the military.”
Meanwhile, others are seeking basic needs and shelter amid the rise in tensions.
“We want to live here safely in Bangladesh,” said Harun, another refugee. “This is why we escaped, but we need food and somewhere to live.”