The horrible scenes of hungry, tired and almost lifeless Rohingya refugees entering Bangladesh shocked the world in 2017. Even today, many Rohingyas are attempting to make the journey from Myanmar to Bangladesh, believing that a foreign land (Bangladesh) would be safer than their homes (Myanmar). Although they aren’t migrating in large numbers now unlike what they did in 2017, their journey today is as unsafe, horrifying and terrible as it was three years earlier.
It is important to remind the international community, global civil society – as well as those human rights groups and humanitarian organizations not associated with the Rohingya crisis – about how horrible and terrible the journey was.
When they were in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, the Rohingyas first-hand witnessed how the Myanmar army, popularly known as Tatmadaw, came to their villages and burned down their homes into ashes. The fellow Rohingyas were slaughtered right in front of them. Their days turned dark; their nights darker. These surviving victims had no option but to flee together from their native land with the very limited food they were able to carry.
Even when they ran out of food, they had to continue their journey empty stomach so that they were able to reach to the safety, which, during the time, became their only aim in life. On many occasions, they had to walk for several days to the river. Many had to swim across the River Naf to reach close to Bangladesh.
Initially, the Bangladesh Border Guard (BGB) attempted to stop them from crossing the border, though many secretly passed the border without being detected by the BGB personnel. Subsequently, the Bangladeshi government decided to provide them refuge on humanitarian ground until they could be repatriated to their homeland.Although they got refuge in a comparatively safer territory, they remained traumatized. Some of these victims, who used to reside at distant locations from one another in Rakhine State, were reunited at some point of time later in Bangladesh; but others remain separated even today. Many do not know whether their loved ones are alive or dead, and whether or not they were able to cross the Bangladesh border.