Around 21,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in recent weeks to escape violence in neighbouring Myanmar, an official of the International Organisation for Migration said on Tuesday.
This is despite Bangladesh having stepped up patrols on the border to try to stem the tide of refugees, who have been fleeing a bloody crackdown by Myanmar's army in the western state of Rakhine since early October.
"An estimated 21,000 Rohingya have arrived in Cox's Bazar district between October 9 and December 2," Sanjukta Sahany, head of the IOM office in Bangladesh's southeastern district of Cox's Bazar bordering Rakhine, told AFP by phone. "It is based on the figures collected by UN agencies and international NGOs."
Also read- UN: 10,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh
The vast majority of those who arrived took refuge in makeshift settlements, official refugee camps and villages, said Sahany.
Those interviewed by AFP inside Bangladesh have told horrifying stories of gang-rape, torture and murder at the hands of Myanmar's security forces.
Separately, an analysis of satellite images by Human Rights Watch found hundreds of buildings in Rohingya villages have been razed.
Myanmar has denied allegations of abuse but has banned foreign journalists and independent investigators from accessing the area.
Myanmar's Nobel peace laureate and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has faced a growing international backlash for her silence on what a UN official has said amounts to a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya, a Muslim group loathed by many of Myanmar's Buddhist majority.
Last week she vowed to work for "peace and national reconciliation," saying her country faced many challenges, but did not mention the violence in Rakhine state.