US, EU question barbed-wire fence around Rohingya camps

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Dhaka-based foreign diplomats, including the US envoy, sought an explanation from the government over the move to install a barbed-wire fence around Rohingya camps in the south-eastern district of Cox’s Bazar.

US Ambassador Earl Robert Miller, Canadian High Commissioner Benoit Préfontaine and a representative of the European Union raised the issued during a meeting with Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan at his Secretariat office on Thursday (Sept 26).

Briefing the media after the meeting, Khan said that the envoys were told Bangladesh had anticipated that the Rohingya crisis would be resolved within three to four months after it unfolded in August 2017.

“We told them, now it’s clear there’s no immediate solution. Hence the prime minister ordered barbed-wire fences keeping the camps’ security in mind,” he said.

Citing the murder of a local Awami League leader and a law enforcer allegedly by the Rohingyas, Khan said they are getting involved in crimes and drug peddling.

“We also told them that the Myanmar government has complained that some terrorists from their end are taking refuge in the camps and barbed-wire fences were ordered keeping that in mind as well,” he said.

Saying that the envoys were satisfied with the clarification, he added that they had also raised that issue of how the NGOs were going to work around the fence. “They have been told that the rest of the world surrounds refugee camps with barbed-wire fences and Bangladesh will do the same.”

Khan said that they had no objection to the fences and that work was underway to implement the prime minister’s orders soon.

He said that the three diplomats have been told that the government has decided to disconnect cell phone and internet connections at the camps so that international terrorists can’t contact the Rohingyas.

“We have decided to set up watchtowers near the camps given that it’s not possible to monitor camp activities at night, as the law enforcers only patrol the streets,” he said.

Responding to queries on the Rohingyas being re-located, the minister said that the move will be made after consultation with the UNHCR and those concerned.

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