Rohingya exodus from India to Bangladesh escalates

Published 17.01.2019 23:53
Updated 18.01.2019 00:09

The roundups in India, and fear of deportation to Myanmar, have driven even more of the stateless Muslims into Bangladesh, where a million Rohingya live in giant refugee camps in the country's southeast. Nayana Bose, a spokeswoman for the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), which includes U.N. agencies and other foreign humanitarian organizations, said the pace of new arrivals had escalated since Jan. 3.

"Some 1,300 individuals from 300 families have arrived from India to Bangladesh until today," she told AFP.

"The new arrivals were being housed in a U.N. transit center," she added.

United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) spokesman Firas Al-Khateeb said they were "aware of the situation." Those crossing the border in recent weeks have been detained by police and sent to Cox's Bazar, a southern district home to the world's largest refugee camps.

New Delhi has faced sharp criticism for turning members of the persecuted minority over to Myanmar in recent weeks, despite the army there being accused of atrocities against the Rohingya. The United Nations and rights groups accused India of disregarding international law and returning the Rohingya to possible danger in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

India, which is not a signatory to the U.N. Refugee Convention, arrested 230 Rohingya in 2018, the most in years as Hindu hardliners called for the displaced Muslims to be deported en masse. Amnesty International, among other rights groups, has blasted India for forcibly repatriating the Rohingya to Myanmar when persecution in Rakhine is ongoing. Indian officials say around 40,000 Rohingya are living in India. The U.N. refugee agency says around 18,000 Rohingya are registered with the UNHCR. At least 720,000 Rohingya fled the bloody crackdown and entered Bangladesh to join some 300,000 already living in the camps. Dozens of Rohingya were also deported from Saudi Arabia to Bangladesh last week.

Rohingya Muslims are the most persecuted minority in the world according to U.N. figures and continue to suffer from oppression under the Myanmar government, the army and Buddhist extremists. Over the past decade, thousands of Rohingya have been killed since violence broke out in 2008, causing hundreds of thousands to flee their homeland for Bangladesh, Malaysia and other countries in the region.

Although the numbers are contested, it is known that thousands of people have been killed in the last few years, while more than a million had to flee. The Myanmar army has set Rohingya villages on fire, bulldozing many of them and even uprooting trees and farms to make the area uninhabitable.

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