COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Bangladeshi coast guards plucked a group of Rohingya refugees from a border river Wednesday (Oct 11) as they tried to escape Myanmar by using jerrycans as flotation devices, officials said.
The 11 Rohingya had been waiting days for a boat to ferry their families across the Naf River to Bangladesh but none arrived, Border Guard Bangladesh official Abdul Jalil told AFP.
“They decided to swim the two-kilometre stretch across the mouth of the river. Coast guards plucked them from the Naf River as they floated with jerrycans near Shah Porir Dwip,” Jalil said, referring to a Bangladeshi coastal town.
“They said they planned to hire boats to ferry their families, relatives and hundreds of other Rohingya gathered on the bank of the river across to Bangladesh.”
The Naf divides Bangladesh from western Myanmar, where an army crackdown and ethnic strife has forced more than 520,000 Rohingya Muslims from their homes since August.
The majority have crossed into Bangladesh by land but many thousands have come by sea, and nearly 160 Rohingya have drowned making the dangerous voyage.
Bangladesh has destroyed fishing boats and jailed captains accused of smuggling Rohingya across the border in an attempt to curb new arrivals.
The influx had slowed in recent weeks but now appears to be rising again. An estimated 11,000 new refugees arrived on Monday, officials said.
The UN refugee agency said Tuesday it was working with Bangladesh authorities to set up a transit centre in preparation for a fresh influx from Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine.
In another development Bangladesh border guards detained 19 Rohingya early Wednesday as they crossed from India, where about 40,000 live as refugees.
The 19, including 10 children, were intercepted in Bangladesh’s southwestern district of Satkhira.
“They said they entered Bangladesh with the help of brokers,” Border Guard Bangladesh official Mosharraf Hossain told AFP.
New Delhi wants to deport the 40,000 Rohingya refugees on its soil, with the government telling India’s top court last month they posed a security threat.
Bangladesh wants to repatriate to Myanmar the hundreds of thousands of recent refugees living in overcrowded camps in the southeast.
But the stateless Muslim minority are reviled in mainly Buddhist Myanmar and considered to be illegal immigrants.
The influx has put immense pressure on Bangladeshi local authorities and aid groups, who have described the refugee crisis as one of the world’s most pressing humanitarian emergencies.