Res­cue at a price for Ro­hingya

The Citizen (Gauteng) - - WORLD -

Shamlapur – For thou­sands of Ro­hingya Mus­lims, a fleet of small wooden fish­ing boats has meant de­liv­er­ance from what they say is an in­dis­crim­i­nate as­sault on their vil­lages by the Myan­mar army.

De­liv­er­ance, how­ever, comes at a price. Some paid as much as 10 000 taka (R1 610) per adult to boat­men to make the five-hour cross­ing from Myan­mar’s coast to ports in south­ern Bangladesh.

The fish­er­men say they have a moral obli­ga­tion to help des­per­ate fel­low Mus­lims es­cap­ing per­se­cu­tion but Bangladeshi of­fi­cials ac­cuse them of prof­i­teer­ing. Or­dered to stamp out hu­man traf­fick­ing, they have made ar­rests and even set fire to fish­ing boats.

“Of course, we want to keep go­ing back to res­cue more peo­ple. Our Mus­lim broth­ers and sis­ters are in a bad sit­u­a­tion, so I have to go and bring them,” said Mo­hammed Alom, 25, a fish­er­man in the Bangladeshi vil­lage of Shamlapur.

Around 400 000 Ro­hingya have ar­rived in Bangladesh in less than three weeks and peo­ple are still com­ing, by land and sea, af­ter at­tacks by Ro­hingya mil­i­tants sparked a fierce coun­terof­fen­sive by Myan­mar’s army.

Se­nior United Na­tions of­fi­cials have de­scribed the vi­o­lence as eth­nic cleans­ing.

The in­flux is plac­ing huge strain on author­i­ties in south­ern Bangladesh, one of the poor­est parts of a poor coun­try.

But Border Guards Bangladesh com­man­der Lieu­tenant-Colonel Ari­ful Is­lam said the “re­cuers” were ex­ploit­ing the refugees.

“These peo­ple are very poor, it’s just ex­tort­ing from them what­ever they have. We are help­ing those who ar­rived, but we’re try­ing to in­sist that no hu­man traf­fick­ing should take place.”

Three Ro­hingya fish­er­men in­ter­viewed didn’t be­lieve the prof­its they made de­tracted from their res­cue mis­sion.

But two refugees said fam­ily mem­bers were de­tained by fish­er­men or bro­kers in Bangladesh when they could not pay for the jour­ney.

Pic­ture: EPA

STOP THE OP­PRES­SION. In­done­sian Mus­lim ac­tivists protest against the per­se­cu­tion of the Ro­hingya mi­nor­ity out­side the Myan­mar em­bassy in Jakarta, In­done­sia, this week.

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