DHAKA: Bangladesh today began constructing 14,000 new shelters for the more than 400,000 Muslim Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in neighbouring Myanmar to ensure they remain confined to an area and do not fan out across the country.
The refugees have been fleeing to Bangladesh for three weeks to escape a military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state, which the UN has said amounts to ethnic cleansing.
Myanmar says the crackdown is a response to last month's deadly attacks on police by militants in the northern state and denies it is targeting civilians.
Bangladesh has been overwhelmed by the exodus and struggling to house the refugees in the shelters being built with assistance from UN and other international organisations.
"Work to construct the 14,000 temporary shelters began today at Kutupalang," a disaster management ministry spokesman told PTI, adding the army has been asked to build them in 10 days.
Kutupalang, near the southeastern Cox's Bazar city, is one of the areas where Bangladesh is setting up the shelters.
"The prime objective of the initiative is to prevent the refugees from fanning out and handle the crisis properly,"
disaster management and relief ministry secretary Shah Kamal said.
Bangladesh authorities have restricted the Rohingya refugees from leaving the border areas, fearing it might get difficult for the authorities to identify them later.
The police headquarters in a directive to local administration asked them to monitor the movement of the refugees. Police last week detained 20 Rohingya refugees in central Manikganj district, about 450 kilometres from Cox's Bazar.
The police in a statement said the refugees have been told not to take shelter at their friends' or acquaintances' in Bangladesh, and neighbourhood residents have been asked not to rent houses to the refugees.
"They should stay in the designated camps until they return to their country... They cannot travel from one place to another by roads, railways or waterways," it said.