What we know about the Rohingya influx into Bangladesh


Who are Myanmar's persecuted Rohingyas? And why are they fleeing their home country in their tens of thousands? You can find answers to your questions over violence against Muslims in Myanmar in that article.

Myanmar's persecuted Muslim minority, the Rohingya, often seek refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh. But who are they and what has driven them to take such desperate measures?

Question: How many Rohingya entered Bangladesh after the outbreak of violence in Myanmar's restive Rakhine state?

Answer: There has been no official procedure to register people entering Bangladesh through its 271-kilometre border with Myanmar. Some parts of the border are fenced with barbed wire while most of the rest is porous, including a 80-kilometre stretch of river.

The UN Migration agency says an estimated 18,000 Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh in the first six days of violence that erupted in Rakhine State on August 25. Neither the government nor the aid agencies have released any other official update.

Local people estimate the number of Rohingya that have fled Myanmar to be as many as 80,000.

Mohammad Mainuddin, officer in charge of Teknaf police station, said a huge number of Rohingya entered Bangladesh in the last couple of days.

The roads, lanes and byways in the township of Teknaf, the southern-most tip of Bangladesh along the Myanmar border, are full of Rohingya, he said.

Q: Who is fleeing the violence in Myanmar?

A: The violence is generally targeted at Muslims, one of the many ethnic minority groups in the Buddhist-majority country. This time minority Hindus have not been spared; they have also fled their homes alongside the Muslims.

At least 412 Hindus, including women and children, have found a place at an abandoned poultry farm in Ukhiya, a sub-district in Cox's Bazar, bordering Myanmar.

Officer in charge of Ukhiya Police Station Abul Khair said they had fled their homes fearing attack.

Q: What made them flee their homes?

A: Killing, torture, arson attacks, looting, rape and insecurity are among the reasons the minority Muslims cite for leaving their homes. They blame the security forces and vigilantes from the Buddhist community for carrying out attacks. Rumours are also an element that prompts them to cross the border.

Many of the minority Muslim who crossed into Bangladesh say that there were rumours that the Burmese military were going to launch yet another round of massive attacks on Rohingya villages on the day of the Muslim feast of the sacrifice, or Eid-al-Adha.

Amena Khatun, 60, a woman, who landed on an island located in Bangladesh territory, said she crossed the river by boat on Friday morning after rumours spread.

Q: What is the government doing?

A: The tension over the Rohingya is not new in this part of the world. According to a Human Rights Watch study, the Rohingya have fled to what is now Bangladesh in four main periods: the late 1700s and early 1800s, the 1940s, 1978 and, most recently, in 1991, 1992, 2012, 2016 and 2017.

The government says Bangladesh is now burdened with repeated waves of Rohingyas, as it hosts more than 400,000 unregistered refugees.

Bangladesh has set aside an island called Thengar Char in the Bay of Bengal for the rehabilitation of the refugees until the crisis is solved.

The plan, which was announced after the 2016 influx of more than 85,000 Rohingya, was criticized by aid agencies as the island was at the time not yet habitable.

After the latest violence in Myanmar, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina directed her cabinet colleagues to consider the Rohingya issue from a humanitarian point of view.

Hasina at a meeting this week with a senior US official, Alice G Wells, in Dhaka, asked her government to mount pressure on Myanmar to stop pushing Burmese nationals into Bangladesh.

The government has also requested that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) coordinate humanitarian support for the civilians fleeing violence in Rakhine.

Q: How do the local people treat the Rohingya?

A: Rohingya migrants in the south-eastern district of Cox's Bazar have become very normal. Villagers say some 2,000 Rohingya travel across the border in both directions. The situation changes when violence erupts.

Local residents help the migrants to settle in the camps where the previously arrived live.

Police detained 65 people this time round for helping the Rohingya enter Bangladesh after the August 25 violence.

Q: Where and how are they living?

A: Thousands of Rohingya are still trapped on the border as Bangladesh beefed up security. They have set up makeshift camps on the hilly border until they can manage to cross into Bangladesh. Troopers from the Bangladeshi border force are providing limited food and healthcare services to them.

Many of those who manage to enter travel straight to their relatives or try to find someone at the refugee camps.

Some others stay in the jungle or on the wayside until they find a good place to live in.

Q: What do the agencies do?

A: A good number of local and international non-governmental organizations have been providing support in terms of shelter, food, clothes, utensils and medical care for the Rohingya refugees.

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