The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network is gravely concerned that Bangladesh has denied safe haven to those fleeing from recent sectarian violence in Rakhine state in Myanmar and has taken action to forcibly return asylum seekers back to Myanmar.
Of particular concern is the statement by the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) on 16 June 2012 that some 728 Rohingya have been detained in Bangladesh and that all but 13 have already been deported to Myanmar.
APRRN believes that those fleeing from Rakhine state should be afforded safe haven in Bangladesh and in other countries, at least until the current situation on the ground can be more accurately assessed and the safety and protection of returnees can be assured.
APRRN acknowledges that Bangladesh has long been host to a large Rohingya refugee population, including the 29000 refugees living in the two official camps and some 200000 unregistered Rohingya who live in Bangladesh. APRRN therefore urges the authorities in Bangladesh to extend the same humanitarian spirit to those fleeing the current wave of unrest and to continue positive efforts with Myanmar and the international community to find solutions for this particular population and to support the government of Myanmar to build peace in Rakhine state.
APPRN also urges donor and regional governments and international organisations to provide necessary diplomatic and financial support to assist in sharing the asylum burden with Bangladesh.
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The discriminatory treatment of Rohingya in Rakhine state, where they are regarded as non-citizens and deprived of most basic rights, has been well documented. In particular, Rohingya who depart the country without authorisation face particularly punitive treatment, including up to five years imprisonment for illegal exit and entry.
The right to seek and enjoy asylum is a fundamental human right enshrined in the both customary international law and the Universal Declaration for Human Rights.