EU to help Burmese refugees in Bangladesh

Dec 15, 2007 (AFP), The European Commission said Saturday it had boosted aid to Bangladesh to more than 10.5 million euros (15 million dollars) with a new package to relocate thousands of Burmese refugees.

The latest amount of 1.5 million euros is in addition to 2.5 million euros allocated for victims of floods earlier this year and 6.5 million euros to help survivors of last month’s Cyclone Sidr.

The funds from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) will provide shelter, water, sanitation and access to healthcare for members of the Rohingya ethnic group living near Teknaf in Bangladesh’s southeastern Cox’s Bazar district, which borders Burma.

"In the region of Teknaf around 10,000 undocumented Rohingya refugees need to be relocated in order to empty over-crowded camps where living conditions are appalling," an ECHO statement said.

"The commission funding will help this population resettle in a suitable place where their immediate needs will be met," it said, adding that they were the victims of a "forgotten crisis".

Those in the camps are among an estimated 28,000 Rohingyas still in Bangladesh who have fled persecution in Burma over many years.

Bangladesh authorities insist the Teknaf refugees are illegal immigrants and should return to Burma.

Since the 1990s, some 236,000 Rohingyas have been repatriated to Burma.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has condemned the living conditions of the Teknaf refugees as "squalid" and called for them to be moved swiftly.

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