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Page last updated at 12:15 GMT, Friday, 19 June 2009 13:15 UK

Concern over Bangladesh refugees

Unofficial refugee camp in south-east Bangladesh
MSF says that conditions faced by Rohingyas living in the Kutupalong makeshift camp in south-east Bangladesh are "deplorable"

Thousands of unregistered Rohingya refugees are at risk of being forcibly removed from a makeshift camp in Bangladesh, an aid agency says.

In a statement released to co-incide with World Refugee Day on Saturday, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says that these Rohingyas are being abused.

MSF says that they have nowhere to live and are suffering "dire conditions".

The government has not responded to the claims. But it says it can only help refugees who are officially recognised.

It says that Rohingyas who do not live in camps run jointly with the UN's High Commission for Refugees are not welcome in the country and should return to Burma immediately.

Thousands of Rohingyas - who are mostly Muslim - first arrived in south-east Bangladesh about 20 years ago to escape what they said was persecution carried out by the country's military government.

Many have remained, despite concerted efforts by Dhaka and Rangoon to repatriate them.

In January the Thai government was accused of mistreating hundreds of Rohingyas who were trying to flee Burma by sea.

'Nowhere to go'

"To forcibly displace this group when they are already so vulnerable is outrageous," said Gemma Davies, MSF Project Coordinator for the Kutupalong makeshift camp.

MSF - the only foreign agency that works with refugees in the Kutupalong makeshift camp - says that it is "deeply concerned" over the plight of an estimated 25,000 people who recently have flocked to there from Burma "hoping for recognition and assistance".

Unofficial refugee camp in south-east Bangladesh
The refugees 'lack adequate food and sanitation'

"But instead of finding help, they have been told that they cannot live next to the official camp, supported by the Bangladeshi Government and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees," an MSF press statement says.

"Nor can they legally live on adjacent forestry department land. They have nowhere to go and no way to meet their basic needs."

Inhabitants of Kutupalong - including women and children - complain of being beaten up.

"I cannot move," one camp resident said. "If we go to collect wood we will be arrested. If we collect water we will be beaten."

MSF says a countless number of their homes have been destroyed.

Between 14 to 20,000 Rohingyas live in official camps, the government says.

The aid agency says that it was alerted to the plight of the refugees in Kutupalong in March, when numbers began to rise.

An assessment was conducted and at least 20,000 people were discovered to be living in "dire humanitarian conditions, with global acute malnutrition rates above the emergency threshold".

The Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said earlier this month that Burma was to blame for the recent influx of refugees.

"If there is no qualitative change in the place they come from, the influx will be continuing no matter how seriously we try to resolve the crisis," she said.



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