Ro­hingya sent back to Myan­mar camps hun­gry, in debt

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - International -

RO­HINGYA Mus­lims who paid hun­dreds of dol­lars to flee squalid Myan­mar camps by boat are des­ti­tute since they were stopped at sea and re­turned, the U.N. refugee agency told AFP on Fri­day.

Im­ages of hun­gry and thirsty Ro­hingya hud­dled on boats have stirred mem­o­ries of a 2015 cri­sis, when thou­sands of flee­ing Ro­hingya were stuck at sea as a traf­fick­ing trail south col­lapsed.

Some 120,000 of the state­less Mus­lim mi­nor­ity have lan­guished in camps in cen­tral Rakhine for six years since a bloody bout of in­ter­com­mu­nal vi­o­lence with eth­nic Rakhine Bud­dhists.

The end of the mon­soon brings more fa­vor­able, if still treach­er­ous, sail­ing con­di­tions for those des­per­ate to es­cape the camps that are branded as “open-air pris­ons” by rights groups and where Ro­hingya have lit­tle ac­cess to work, ed­u­ca­tion or health­care.

One Ro­hingya boat this week made it to Aceh on the north­ern tip of the In­done­sian is­land of Su­ma­tra but sev­eral oth­ers have been picked up in Myan­mar wa­ters and those on board sent back to the camps.

Many of the Ro­hingya had sold or lost all their pos­ses­sions, in­clud­ing their shel­ters, to pay the ex­tor­tion­ate fees to traf­fick­ers, said U.N. refugee agency spokes­woman Aoife McDon­nell. They are in “acute need of sup­port” now they are back in the camps, she said.

Jour­nal­ists are not al­lowed to en­ter the camps ex­cept on brief gov­ern­ment-chap­er­oned tours, but Ro­hingya there told AFP by phone that many also sold their food ra­tion doc­u­ments. “They have noth­ing to eat,” one Ro­hingya in Thetkal Pyin camp said, ask­ing not to be named. “They can’t get their money back from the traf­fick­ers.”

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