Rohingyas on desperate journey

Mohiuddin Alamgir and Mohammad Nurul Islam | Published: 00:05, Nov 11,2017 | Updated: 01:28, Nov 11,2017

 
 
Rohingya

Rohingya refugees cross the Naf River with an improvised raft to reach to Bangladesh at Sabrang near Teknaf on Friday. — Reuters photo

The journey of Rohingyas entering Bangladesh seems to have become more desperate as many of them are setting out on perilous journey by rafts made up with plastic jerry cans, with 180 more of the ethnic minorities reaching Bangladesh on Friday.
Rohingyas fleeing persecution in their homeland since August 25, when the latest spell of violence erupted in Rakhine state, were so far crossing the border walking through land border points or coming by boats through water border.
Local administrators and Border Guard Officials said that it was seen that Rohingyas were setting out on desperate and risky journey to cross the bordering River Naf on rafts made up with jerry cans tied to bamboos.
Rohingyas said that they were now taking the risky step as they were not getting boats and whenever they got one, people operating it, dodging BGB patrols, were charging extra, which they could not afford.
Nurul Kabir, a Rohingya who crossed the river on a raft on Wednesday, told New Age that he took the risk finding no other alternatives for saving his life.
‘Today about 180 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh floating on a raft made up with jerry cans,’ Teknaf upazila nirbahi officer Zahid Hossain Siddique told New Age on Friday.
He also said that about 130 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh through Shah Parir Dwip point crossing the Naf on Thursday and 52 on Wednesday.
‘They are desperately entering Bangladesh. They tie plastic jerry cans together to float across the river,’ he said.
According to the UN estimation till Thursday, 6,13,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh since the beginning of the new influx, what the United Nations called the world’s fastest-developing refugee emergency, on August 25.
A government handout on Thursday, however, said that till that day 6,26,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh.
Officials estimated that the new influx already took to 10.32 lakh the number of documented and undocumented Myanmar nationals in Bangladesh entering the country at times since 1978.
The new influx began after Myanmar security forces responded to Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army’s reported attacks on August 25 by launching violence what the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing.
Terrified, half-starved and exhausted Rohingyas continued arriving in Bangladesh in groups trekking hills and forests and crossing rough sea and the Naf on boat and taking shelter wherever they could in Cox’s Bazar.
Locals said that several rafts carrying Rohingyas reached the river bank at different points of Shah Parir Dwip on Friday, like previous two days.
Bangladesh shares with Myanmar a 272-km border that falls in Bandarban and Cox’s Bazar. Of this, a 52-km stretch is covered by the Naf.
Many dishonest boat owners and fishermen from Bangladesh and Myanmar are ferrying Rohingays in small wooden fishing boats across sea and to the shore of the River Naf, a perilous journey that often takes lives, in exchange for what the ill-fated Rohingyas can afford to give them — money, jewelries, domestic utensil and what not.
Bangladesh has asked boatmen and fishermen not to go to the Naf on security grounds, said Zahid Hossain.
Against this backdrop, Rohingyas waiting on Myanmar side of river were trying to reach Bangladesh on rafts, said Nur Shahin, another Rohingya.
Both Nurul Kabir and Nur Shahin said that they could not manage a boat to cross the river, so they resorted to making the raft.
‘I cannot afford the amount the boatmen are asking for to bring us to Bangladesh,’ he said.
‘When we asked about the reasons of using rafts made up with jerry cans, Rohingyas say that they are not finding boats,’ said Zahid Hossain.
Crossing river by wooden boat was sometimes found risky as so far about 190 Rohingyas died while their boats capsised on the Naf and the Bay of Bengal while fleeing to Bangladesh. The Naf flows into the Bay.
Teknaf upazila nirbahi office sources said that eleven youths crossed the Naff using a jerry-can raft to come to Bangladesh on October 11 and after that another 50 crossed the river on rafts till the first week of November.
Zahid Hossain said that at least 978 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh on Friday through different points of Teknaf.  

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