Thousands of Rohingya refugees protested in Bangladesh on Thursday, demanding a return to their homeland of Myanmar and an escape from the refugee camps.
Many of these refugees fled Myanmar after the military’s crackdown on who they deemed to be “foreign interlopers” six years ago. Refugees cite the increasing crime rates, squalid living conditions, and lack of future prospects in Bangladesh for their desire to return to their homeland, with many fleeing to other countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia by boat, oftentimes in dangerous conditions. The UN has reported that an estimated 348 Rohingya are thought to have died at sea last year.
Rohingyas are a Muslim minority in the Bhuddist majority country of Myanmar and are denied citizenship under the 1982 Myanmar nationality law.
“A series of murders of Rohingya men, including some leaders, at the camps have sparked fear and concern about militant groups gaining power and local authorities failing to curb increasing violence,” said Dil Mohammed, a Rohingya community leader in the camps. “That’s one of the main reasons behind the surge in Rohingya undertaking dangerous sea voyages.”
Crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, human trafficking, kidnapping, and narcotics trade have always plagued the refugee camps; however, the intensity of these crimes has increased exponentially in recent years. “We are citizens of Myanmar by birth. We want to go back home with all our rights, including citizenship, free movement, livelihood, safety, and security,” Mohammad Jashim, another community leader, told Reuters.
However, previous attempts to return the refugees to their homeland in both 2018 and 2019 failed as many refugees refused for fear of persecution upon their return. Bangladeshi officials have expressed worry over the ever-present refugee camps as many locals have become increasingly hostile to the refugees. “Our situation is only deteriorating. What future do we have here?” asked refugee Mohammed Taher.