Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar are one of the most overlooked and persecuted minorities in the world.
Despite living in Myanmar for hundreds of years, they are officially stateless. Their ordeal has been exacerbated by the criminal indifference shown by the government that regards them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship.
On the other hand, Bangladesh has refused to grant Rohingyas refugee status since 1992.
Although the ethnic group has been subjected to violence since 2012, the situation took a turn for the worse last year in October when Myanmar’s military launched an indiscriminate crackdown against the Rohingya community.
Since then, even more Rohingya Muslims have escaped to neighboring countries, primarily Bangladesh, in order to seek refuge.
However, due to the squalid conditions in Bangladeshi refugee camps and the fact that Bangladesh doesn’t allow these people to work, Rohingya Muslims are being forced to consider other countries, such as Nepal, India and Pakistan.
Already, more than 200,000 Rohingya were living in official and makeshift camps in Bangladesh. However, the influx following October forced the country’s government to come up with a relocation plan — one that has got the refugees worried.
Bangladesh plans to relocate Rohingya refugees to Thengar Char, a muddy uninhabited island in the murky waters of the Bay of Bengal, which is flood- and cyclone-prone. Also, it is flat and mostly covered by bushes.
"People are desperate to leave the camps," a community leader Mohammad Idris in Dhaka told AFP. "Those who have money or gold ornaments are paying smugglers to get them out by air, and those who don't are trying roads."
Around 70,000 Rohingya Muslims have crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar and considering how the government of Myanmar, under Aung San Suu Kyi, seems disinterested in solving the crisis, the number will continue to increase.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters