Bangladesh turns back refugee boats

The Myanmar Times - - News -

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

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