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Arduous journeys

Rohingyas had to pay Tk 5,000-10,000 in cash each to cross Naf River

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13th-Oct-2017       
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UNB, Dhaka :
Their arduous journeys from Rakhine villages to the border with Bangladesh took from 2-16 days, and that most Rohingya people were forced to pay between Tk 5,000-10,000 each to cross the Naf River by boat, according to a new report.
"Many without any means had to walk across the border," said the UN report, released on Wednesday, which is based on some 65 interviews with individuals and groups.
Since August 25, an estimated 521,000 Rohingyas have arrived in Bangladesh having fled violence in Myanmar.
In several reported cases, the report claimed, the people who did not have cash bartered jewellery, such as gold bracelets, earrings and nose pins to pay for the crossing.
And those who could not afford to pay were left behind, and in some cases, boatmen took pity and allowed unaccompanied minors in particular to board the boat without payment.
The report by a team from the UN Human Rights Office, who met the newly arrived Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar from September 14 to 24, stated that human rights violations committed against the Rohingya population were carried out by Myanmar security forces often in concert with armed Rakhine Buddhist individuals.
In Sabrang, the team was informed that faith-based organisations pay for transportation of some Rohingyas from a transit island (Shah Porir Dwip) to mainland Bangladesh.
During the visit, the team witnessed the arrival of a boat with 26 Rohingyas on board, mainly women and children.
The passengers were received by men carrying stacks of cash which was offered to the arriving Rohingyas (Tk 100-500 per person).         
Rohingyas received a voucher each for staple food and basic personal items by representatives of faith-based organizations, including a local mosque.
Arriving by boat was an 11 year-old boy, with a bullet injuring on his thigh, who said, "I belonged to a group of 25 people attempting to cross the border. Myanmar military started shooting at us and 8 people got injured. My father was killed earlier during our journey from our village to the border, and I was separated from my mother."
A 34-year-old woman from Buthidaung Township found her sister's children abandoned at the border in Myanmar: "I managed to escape with my two children. I don't know how I managed to reach the border. I was so scared. I lost everything. My husband was killed in front of me."
"We had no water or food but people helped me and they cared for my children. For eight days we were hiding in the jungle - when we came to the border I found my sister's [12-year old] daughter. She was shot thrice, once in the back and twice in her leg," the woman was quoted as saying.
Fleeing Rohingyas hid along the hillsides during day time and walked towards the border with Bangladesh at nightfall out of fear of detection and assault.
Individuals indicated that they went to abandoned villages to find food and water before they finally fled the country for safety. Several testimonies referred to ongoing attacks in the border area with Bangladesh while waiting for transportation.
A single mother of six children from Buthidaung township arrived on the shore in Bangladesh and said, "I've nothing, I was so scared for my life, the only thing that I focused on was to save the lives of my children, I don't know where to go, I don't have a plan, and I don't know what the future will bring. Please help me."
In one of the group interviews with 42 new arrivals in Shamlapur originating from Maungdaw township in Myanmar, a majority of whom were women (including five women with 23 children) described how the Myanmar security forces had entered their homes telling them to look outside their windows where neighbouring villages were on fire, and warned that if they did not leave they would all be burnt inside their houses.
A recently arrived 19-year-old girl from Buthidaung township, whose father was allegedly killed by the Myanmar security forces in front of her and her mother, and who was lost in the crowd said, "I am alone; I do know where to go, or what to do. I have my four siblings [they are 6, 9, 12, 13 years of age] and I don't know how to feed them or how to comfort them. I cry at night so they cannot see. I hide my face so they cannot see the pain or the fear I feel."

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