Five years have passed since about 1 million Rohingya people fled Myanmar after the military junta had carried out a widened campaign of persecution and killing, and up to this date those “most persecuted people” are scattered everywhere but their home. The Rohingya have fled to the nearest seemingly safe country, Bangladesh. But now after five years of their exodus, Bangladesh does not seem to like the idea of providing the safe haven they hoped for.
Witnessing the killing of about three of the most prominent community leaders, news reports recorded the last year to be the year with most cases of killing inside the Rohingya camps, though there isn’t an official statistic stating the number of killings but it is no doubt –according to news reports- that the situation inside the refugee camps is moving towards a dangerous slope.
During the past two months there has also been an escalation between the Myanmar junta and the Arakan Army as mortar shells were dropped on villages near Bangladesh borders. That shelling has resulted in deaths and casualties among civilians, creating a state of panic among those who did not flee Myanmar villages and chose to confront the hazards of living at home.
The situation is getting worse and worse every day; the refugee camps are falling in the grip of smugglers, human traffickers, drug dealers and many more illegal networks. Refugees are talking about gun shots heard all night, making no one able to set a foot outside home after sunset for fear of being killed or kidnapped by the gangs spread everywhere in the camps. Refugees are used by those gangs to smuggle illegal items through borders, and those who refuse have no choice but death. Also, the networks of extremism are finding the camp a suitable environment to breed their ideologies.
This worsening situation has driven tens and later hundreds of the Rohingya –whether in Myanmar or Bangladesh- to take the path of illegal migration to find a better place for living, mostly in Malaysia or Indonesia. The problem lies in the fact that both countries regard those Rohingya as illegal immigrants, and thus they have been treated as criminals by being sent to jails or later deported to Myanmar, a thing that the UNHCR has condemned many times, asking the Malaysian authorities to treat those fleeing Rohingya as refugees not illegal immigrants.
For the sake of going Malaysia, some of those refugees sell everything they have and give the money to a smuggler who later takes them in illegal boats towards Malaysia. Most of the time those illegal immigrants don’t find a way to Malaysia, with either their boats sinking near Indonesia or them being caught by officials in Bangladesh or Myanmar. Thus, they lose both the place they used to call home and the chance they aspired to take to live a better life away from the atrocities of the junta and the criminals in the camps.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikha Hasina has been calling on the international community to take more serious steps towards the repatriation of the Rohingya, a step that has been hindered further by the Myanmar authorities. In her latest speech before the UN General Assembly, Sheikha Hasina cited multiple social, economic and security problems facing Bangladesh because of the refugees. She urged the international community to use its power and push towards a quick and safe repatriation of the Rohingya. And since that time, she has reiterated this request, with things getting worse along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.
The Rohingya are now more fearful than ever of a potential return to home with news coming out about mortar shelling and killings in the villages near the border. Is this escalation a coincidence, or is it made on purpose with the US announcing the atrocities committed against the Rohingya a genocide? This announcement rings the alarm for the junta that the day to pay for their crimes is nearing.
Between camps falling under the control of gangs, hopes for safe repatriation and violence escalating on the borders between Myanmar and Bangladesh, the Rohingya refugees are left at an almost dead end.