Refugees fall prey to treacherous waters

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Publication Date: 15 September, 2017
Media: The Independent 


Shamsuddin Illius from Shahporirdwip

Rohingyas are falling prey to boat capsizals while crossing the Bay of Bengal and Naf river to reach Shahporirdwip, a border island on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, which has been a major influx point for refugees since violence erupted in Rakhine state in the neighbouring country on August 24. So far, over 89 refugees, mostly women and children have been killed and an unknown number remains missing following such boat capsizals.

In the latest of such incidents, a woman and her daughter drowned yesterday after their boat failed to manage the rough tides of the Bay of Bengal. As many as 18 more refugees on board the ill-fated boat were missing till the filing of the report. “My daughter-in-law, Anowara Begum, and granddaughter, Rasia Begum, were drowned after our boat capsized near Major Para,” said Nurul Islam, who hails from Naikhondiapara of Rathedaung in Myamar.

“I along with my daughter and a grandson somehow managed to swim to safety,” added Nurul, as he waited with the other survivors on the shore waiting for news of their missing compatriots.

The survivors said they had no other option but to embark on the perilous journey across the sea to escape the rampaging Myanmarese government forces and local Buddhist mobs, who were killing them and torching their homes.

They alos aid that after Buthidaung, the Myanmarese forces launched targeted attacks against Rohingyas in Maungdaw region by setting fire to houses at Baggona, Merullah, Udhong and Kiladaung. There were also reports of similar violence in Rathedaung.

This correspondent also saw smoke billowing from 10 places across the border in Myanmar.

Pointing out to the smoke, Md. Shah, a refugee, said, “The military are setting our houses on fire and killing us. We have no other way to save our lives, but to risk the perilous journey.”

Shah said his son, three daughters and two brothers-in-law have been missing after their boat capsized in the Naf river on Tuesday. “Some people told me that one of my daughters was seen at Jaliapara after the boat capsizal. So, I am making announcements over a loud speaker to get information about my missing family members,” he added.

Nurul Amin, a local Sabrang Union Parishad member, said: “We have recovered 31 bodies and rescued over 100 people since August 25. At least 200 are still missing.” Moreover, 58 bodies were recovered from Jaliapara so far from the Naf river and 150 more are still missing.

“Owing to the rush in getting off from the boats and overloading, the incidents of capsizals are taking place,” Nurul Amin added. ###

Shamsuddin Illius
Shamsuddin Illius is a print and online media journalist. He has been working in the field (fulltime) of journalism since 2010. He is very much passionate about journalism since his early age. Currently he is the Bureau Chief-Chittagong at The Business Standard.

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