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US State Dept. Official Checks on Burmese Refugees in Bangladesh

A senior U.S. State Department official is in Bangladesh to check on the condition of Muslim Rohingya refugees from Burma.

Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugee and Migration Affairs, Ellen Sauerbrey, is quoted by the Associated Press Tuesday as saying the United States is "concerned" about the living conditions of the Rohingya in Bangladesh.

More than 250,000 Burmese minority Rohingyas fled across the border to Bangladesh in the early 1990's. Dhaka has repatriated all but 21,000, who live in two camps in squalid conditions.

A State Department spokeswoman tells VOA that Sauerbrey is scheduled to visit both Rohingya camps, known as Kutupalong and Teknaf.

Bangladesh has refused to grant the Rohingyas refugee status, saying they are illegal immigrants and must return to Burma.

International human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned Burma for its persecution of its ethnic minority groups, including the Rohingyas.

Bangladesh is the first leg of Sauerbrey's three-nation tour to examine refugee programs and policies. She also is scheduled to make stops in Malaysia and Thailand.