Rohingya Muslims at the Nayapara refugee camp in Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi government has ordered three international nongovernment organizations to stop giving relief services to Rohingya refugees. Photo by: Ruben Flamarique / Austcare / CC BY-NC-ND

First, border and coast guards started refusing entry to Rohingya Muslim refugees. Now, Bangladesh has put a stop to some aid work for refugees already in the country.

Bangladesh’s NGO Affairs Bureau has ordered three international nongovernmental organizations to stop providing relief services to Rohingya Muslims crossing from Myanmar’s Rakhine state to the border town of Cox’s Bazar, Agence France-Presse reports.

The order reportedly covers services of Médecins Sans Frontières, Muslim Aid U.K. and Action Against Hunger. The NGOs “have been providing aid to tens of thousands of undocumented Rohingya refugees illegally,” Joynul Bari, a local administrator in Cox’s Bazar, told AFP. He added that the NGOs’ programs “were encouraging an influx of Rohingya refugees.”

MSF confirmed that it has received a letter regarding the ban and is currently discussing the situation with Bangladeshi authorities. Muslim Aid has also lodged an appeal with the Bangladeshi government but has halted operations in Cox’s Bazar in compliance with the order, the group said on its website. The U.S. office of Action Against Hunger reached by Devex, meanwhile, declined to comment.

The three charities provide health, food, training and similar services to Rohingya Muslims in Cox’s Bazaar; MSF runs a clinic there. A number of local NGOs and some foreign groups like Austcare, Concern Universal and DAKBHANGA also operate in the area.

The ban on the NGOs’ programs is Bangladesh’s latest effort to discourage Rohingya Muslims from crossing its border from Myanmar. Bangladeshi border guards have been turning down refugees and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said her country can no longer afford to take in more. There are at least 300,000 refugees currently residing in Bangladesh, but only 30,000 are registered and housed in two camps managed by the United Nations.

The United Nations has described Rohingya Muslims as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. They have been living in Rakhine but the Myanmar government also considers them illegal immigrants. There have also been recent ethnic clashes between the group and the majority Buddhist population in Rakhine. The clashes, as well as reports of continued abuse against Rohingya Muslims, have prompted a U.N. human rights investigation into the issue.

These are why thousands of Rohingya Muslims often flee to Bangladesh for refuge and assistance. But the Bangladeshi government appears keen to stress that they are not welcome there either.

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.