Over 10,000 more Rohingya refugees fleeing a military crackdown at home in Myanmar’s Rakhine State have amassed near a crossing point with Bangladesh awaiting entry into the neighboring country.
The refugees “are arriving at the western grove between Letphwekya and Kwunthpin village to emigrate to the neighboring country,” the state-backed Global new Light of Myanmar reported on Tuesday.
Bangladesh has already allowed more than 507,000 Rohingya into the country since late August, when the Buddhist-majority country launched a new campaign of terror and brutality against the Muslims under the pretext of flushing out anti-government militants.
Rohingya-majority Rakhine State has been emptied of half of its Muslim population over the past weeks and more people are on the move as unspeakable acts continue against the Rohingya.
Many witnesses and rights groups have reported systematic attacks, including rape, murder and arson, at the hands of the army and Buddhist mobs against Rohingya Muslims, forcing them to leave their generations-old homes and flee to overcrowded and squalid refugee camps in Bangladesh.
The UN has described the new crackdown on Rohingya as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.
For those Muslims who remained inside Rakhine, conditions are deteriorating day by day.
United Nations officials who took part in a controlled tour of Rakhine state on Monday spoke of an “unimaginable” scale of suffering.
The UN says the scale of suffering for Rohingya Muslims still remaining in Myanmar is unimaginable.
A European Union delegation accompanying them on the government-steered day trip urged an end to the violence after seeing “villages burned to the ground and emptied of inhabitants.”
In Bangladesh, the refugees were skeptical on Tuesday about their chances of ever going back home to Myanmar despite a recent agreement between the two governments on a refugee repatriation process.
There had already been about 300,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh before the latest exodus.
Myanmar, however, said it would only take back those who arrived after October 2016, if they are “verified.”
Many refugees are suspicious of the Myanmarese government’s plan.
“Everything was burned, even people were burned,” said a refugee who identified himself as Abdullah, dismissing the chances that people would have the necessary documentation for verification of identity.
At the root of the crisis is the refusal by Buddhist-majority Myanmar to grant citizenship to the Muslim minority community.
Amina Katu, 60, laughed at the thought of returning.
“If we go there, we’ll just have to come back here,” she said. “If they give us our rights, we will go, but people did this before and they had to return.”
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told a meeting in Geneva on Monday the Rohingya plight stems from statelessness.
“Nowhere is the link between statelessness and displacement more evident than with the Rohingya community of Myanmar, for whom denial of citizenship is a key aspect of the discrimination and exclusion that have shaped their plight,” he said.
Grandi said the solution to the plight of the Rohingya is to grant them citizenship and work to stamp out poverty in Rakhine State.
Profiteering from misery
In a related development, Bangladesh police rescued 20 Rohingya after busting a gang which ferried the refugees from Myanmar but demanded thousands of dollars for the boat ride, an official said on Tuesday.
The Rapid Action Battalion raided a village near the border with Myanmar late on Monday to free the Rohingya Muslims who were being held hostage, said Major Ruhul Amin.
The RAB chief the hostages included seven women, five men and eight children.
“They were held there by a gang of boat owners and crew who demanded 20,000 taka ($250) per person for a two-hour boat ride from Myanmar,” he said. The regular fee is $5.