Bangladesh turns back refugee boats
BANGLADESH border guards admitted to turning back multiple boats packed with refugees fleeing violence in northern Rakhine State yesterday, despite appeals by the country’s opposition to provide shelter to the Muslim minority.
Thousands of desperate Muslim residents who self-identify as Rohingya have flooded over the border into Bangladesh in the last week, bringing with them claims of gang rape, torture and murder at the hands of security forces, allegations the Myanmar government denies.
Eight boats attempting to cross the Naf River separating Rakhine State from southern Bangladesh were pushed back yesterday after six were refused entry on November 27, the head of the border guards in the Bangladeshi frontier town of Teknaf, Colonel Abuzar Al Zahid, told AFP.
“There were 12 to 13 Rohingya in each of the boats,” Col Zahid said.
Dhaka says thousands more are massed on the border, but has refused urgent international appeals to let them in, instead calling on Myanmar to do more to stop people from fleeing.
In the past two weeks, Bangladeshi border guards have prevented more than 1000 Muslim Rohingya, including many women and children, from entering the country by boat, officials told AFP.
Late on November 27, Bangladesh’s main opposition leader Khaleda Zia joined a growing chorus of groups in the Muslim majority country calling for those fleeing to be given shelter.
According to the UN, at least 30,000 have been internally displaced in Rakhine State. Many have tried to reach Bangladesh over the last month despite heightened border patrols, in order to seek refuge among the Rohingya population that already lives on the Bangladesh side.
Samira Akhter told AFP by phone that she reached an unofficial refugee camp in Bangladesh yesterday, after fleeing her village in Rakhine State with her three children and 49 others.
“I fled to a hill along with my three children and neighbours. We hid there for a week,” said Akhter, 27.
Dudu Mia, a Rohingya leader in the camp, said at least 1338 had arrived in the community since mid-October.
Violence in Rakhine State has surged over the past two months after a series of lethal attacks on police posts that were blamed on local militants. Since the October 9 attacks, access has been restricted to the northern part of the state, making it impossible to independently verify allegations. –
‘I fled to a hill along with my three children and neighbours. We hid there for a week.’ Samira Akhter Refugee sheltering in Bangladesh