Rohingay refugee exodus continues
Report & Photo Morshed Ali Khan, back from Teknaf ›
Even though the Bangladesh government has ignored their pleas, a vast majority of 1.5 million Rohingyas in the Rakhaine state of Myanmar are reportedly preparing to flee their country.
Since World War II Myanmar has treated the Rohingyas in the most barbaric manner and stripped them systematically of all their basic human rights.
Considering the proximity and the common religion, Bangladesh is the only preferred option for them.
Those who can afford to pay human traffickers are braving their ways to Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.
The majority, living in fear of life and in abject poverty in Myanmar, is waiting for their turn to cross the river Naf to reach their dream destination – any one of many Rohingya slums.
The lucky ones who arrived between 1970s and 1990s – about 32,000 of them – are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or the UNHCR.
With the UNHCR the refugees are entitled to ration, medical facilities and tolerably good accommodations. Education in these camps is, however, scarce.
Many of the quarter of a million undocumented Rohingyas live in these slums without enough food, water, proper shelter or access to education, sanitation or work opportunity.
Leda, 15 kilometres off Teknaf, is a Rohingya slum where 2,500 displaced families live in the most appalling conditions.
Between 2009 and 2014 Muslim Aid Bangladesh installed water dispensers at various points of the camp. The organisation also worked on improving sanitation there.
In 2013, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) was given access to the camps under a “strategy” chalked out by the government to deal with the “undocumented refugees.”
The IOM is now ensuring some basic facilities in these camps, according to official sources.
Amir Hossain, the Leda camp secretary, says each family of the camp occupies a single makeshift room. “Rohingyas were never allowed into the schools of Myanmar, so they grew up without schooling.
“The only education came from the local mosque-based madrasas where we only learnt to read the Quran.”
Amir said: “If you notice you will see every Rohingya family has a large number of children. It is because we were never told anything about family planning and also there is an inherent tendency of polygamy among the Rohingya men.
In the current crisis, the Rohingya influx began when Myanmar soldiers poured into Rohingya areas in Myanmar in a brutal retaliation to coordinated attacks on three border posts on October 9 that killed nine police officers.
The newly arrived inmates of Leda camp have one thing in common: almost everyone has graphic pictures in his/her cell phone of the atrocities of Myanmar military.
Arson, killing, looting, gang rapes, beheaded mutilated bodies are common pictures that every Rohingya at the camp is willing to share.
In the rows of makeshift huts Anwara Begum has sheltered a Rohingya family of five who had braved their way across the Naf two days ago. Anwara says the family has nothing left for survival.
“I am poor too and I do not know for how long I can offer them food and shelter,” she says.
Many of the Rohingyas of Leda camp scour the beaches of the Bay of Bengal with hand held nets trying to catch small fishes. “My husband has gone to the sea to try his luck for today,” Anwara adds.
As Rohingyas find their way into Bangladesh, Coast Guards and Border Guard Bangladesh personnel remain alert at half a dozen points of the river border that stretches for 54 kilometres and further 164km of land border with Myanmar through Chittagong Hill Tracts.
According to locals in Teknaf, the monk leaders in Myanmar are hell-bent on forcing the Rohingyas out of that country. Bangladesh is under no compulsion to accept them other than on humanitarian grounds.
What gives Bangladesh the liberty to push back the Rohingyas is interesting. The country is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention nor its 1967 Protocol.
The lack of a formal regional asylum framework has made the Rohingya crisis even more tragic.
Ahmed Topu from Teknaf, a student of Chittagong University, says the government can never stop the influx of Rohingyas trying to escape death and destruction in their country.
“The only way out is to impose international pressure on Myanmar government to stop atrocities on the minority Rohingyas who have been living there for generations.”
This story is shared with the Dhaka Tribune at dhakatribune.com
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