Bangladesh’s mega refugee camp plan ‘dangerous’: UN official

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A senior UN official said Saturday that Bangladesh’s plan to build the world’s largest refugee camp for 800,000 Rohingya Muslims was dangerous because overcrowding could increase the risks of deadly diseases spreading rapidly.

The arrival of more than half a million Rohingyas refugees who have fled an army repression in the troubled state of Rakhine since 25 August has put immense pressure on the already brimming fields of Bangladesh.

Pressures from Bangladeshi authorities are planning to expand a refugee camp in Kutupalong near the border town of Cox’s Bazar to accommodate all Rohingya.

But Robert Watkins, the UN’s resident coordinator in Dhaka, told AFP the country should look for new sites to build more fields.

“When you focus too many people in a very small area, particularly people who are very vulnerable to disease, it is dangerous,” Watkins told AFP.

“There are stronger possibilities, if there is any infectious disease that spreads, which will spread very quickly,” he said, noting also the fire hazards in the camps.

“It is much easier to manage people, manage the health situation and the security situation if there are a number of different camps instead of a concentrated camp.”

At the request of the government of Bangladesh, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) has agreed to coordinate the work of aid agencies and help build shelters in the new camp.

According to the IOM, the proposed field will be the largest Bidi bidi in the world, enriching in Uganda and Dadaab in Kenya, which houses some 300,000 refugees.

Three thousand acres (1,200 hectares) of land have been set aside alongside the current Kutupalong camp for the new Rohingya arrivals.

“700,000 are a great camp … we and our partners will have our work cut off for us,” IOM spokesman Joel Millman told reporters in Geneva yesterday.