Unable to return home, Rohingya risk their lives to leave refugee camps

Human rights defenders are seeing a surge in potentially deadly boat journeys by Rohingya refugees as they try to reach countries in Southeast Asia where they can access schools, food and jobs.

Many of the stateless people have grown desperate because they see no hope of being repatriated to Myanmar, which is convulsed with violence following the February 2021 military coup, rights advocates and NGOs in the region said.

The Rohingya also cannot work or educate their children properly at refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh, where they are prohibited from leaving the camps’ confines.

Rohingya are stranded at sea and pleading for help, according to an adviser to Myanmar’s opposition National Unity Government, who tweeted Thursday what he identified as a recording of a phone call from a Rohingya aboard a boat.

“Our children have been without food for four to five days. We are all suffering from hunger. So please help us reach the shore,” the caller said, according to a translation provided by a Rohingya in a Bangladesh refugee camp. “A 3-year-old child on board died from starvation. The rest of us are all alive, but we ran out of food completely.

“We are seeing a dramatic rise of Rohingya taking dangerous journeys by boat this year. At the end of November, at least four boats carrying Rohingya refugees left Bangladesh to attempt to reach Southeast Asian shores,” Lilianne Fan, co-founder of the Geutanyoë Foundation, a regional humanitarian organization based in Kuala Lumpur, told BenarNews.

“The persecution by the military junta has been pushing people to flee Myanmar for decades now. The lack of food, clean water plus the inability to exercise their fundamental rights are some of the reasons the Rohingya are fleeing Bangladesh,” Ramakrsihnan, founder of an NGO, told BenarNews.

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