Published:  12:51 AM, 15 February 2020

Sinking glory: Rohingya boat capsized in the Bay of Bengal

Sinking glory: Rohingya boat capsized in the Bay of Bengal Rohingya bodies are covered with sheets after their boat sank in the Bay of Bengal on February 11

On Sunday, February 09, 2020, Bangladesh beat India in the Under 19 World Cup Cricket finals in South Africa. Since then we have been celebrating our victory. We don't have much to celebrate at this hard times in our country.

This is why we should celebrate because this is the biggest achievement in our cricket history so far. When the winning team came back home from abroad with the trophy there were celebrations on the streets. People were marching from the airport to Mirpur National Stadium.

On another separate accident however at the same time, 15 Rohingya refugees have died when their overcrowded boat was heading for Malaysia. Many of them are still missing since the boat has been capsized.

Bangladesh Navy & Air Force join rescue operation could rescue seventy men, women, and children. The survivors have said there were some 130 people mostly women and children on the wooden fishing trawler.There are no similarities in the above two events. However, we have agreed that one event brings us to glory as a nation. For the other event, we have mixed feelings.

Because at the beginning when Rohingya refugees started to come to Bangladesh around September 2017 people of Bangladesh were sympathetic about the refugees. Feeling pressure from the general sentiment Government of Bangladesh was forced to take up more than seven million Rohingya refugees.

Now there have been mixed reactions about them among the Bangladesh people. There have been many repatriation attempts doomed to fail just because they don't want to go back to Myanmar. In addition, the Bangladesh Government is trying to relocate them to an island, but they also don't want to go there. They are just want to stay in the refugee camps until they are provided their citizenship rights back in Myanmar and only then they will return to their home.

Coming back to the Rohingya refugee boat capsize incident, we want to know how did this happen? According to the officials from the rescue team the small vessel attempting to carry almost 130 people and trying reach to Malaysia a 2,000-mile journey. According to the rules and regulations in the Rohingya refugee camps, no refugees are allowed outside of the camp area.

Then the question arises, how those refugees got there? Who took them there? And is this being the first of its kind or many boats have already left with refugees and this the one just got capsized?

After this happened many media reports have been claiming that many refugees have been lured by the human traffickers. The traffickers promise them to get them to Thailand or Malaysia.One of the sources has claimed that there were actually two boats and one of the trawlers capsized in the bay and the other one still remains unlocated.

In addition, there are cases where the traffickers are involved in transporting Rohingya and Bangladeshis within Thailand, where they were routinely held captive in Thai jungles until their relatives agreed to pay ransoms.It is true that there is no future for Rohingya refugees in the camps. This is why they desperately go outside for their better future.

This also makes easier for the traffickers to entice them with promises of greater freedom in Malaysia or Thailand. It is common that young Rohingya women are taken for marriages arranged with other Rohingya men living in the destination.According to the right activist groups for Rohingyas, there has a sharp rise in the numbers of Rohingyas who are trying to escape the refugee camps.

The UN estimated that more than 170,000 people were trafficked to south-east Asia by boat from 2012-2015. On April 30, 2015, Thailand found mass graves and detention camps used to hold the refugees until family members paid ransoms.After the discovery of the mass graves, the Thailand authority becomes active and since then the network of traffickers had been largely dormant.

However, after the mass atrocities in Myanmar on 2017 and then the seven million Rohingya refugees fled to Bangladesh the networks become active and since then trying to smuggle refugees to the new destinations using new routes as many as possible. It is not that always the traffickers use boats sometimes people were being taken to Malaysia by land, on long journeys through India, Myanmar, and Thailand.

It is a big business for many people, in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Malaysia. Since Malaysia has offered a little improved living condition for the Rohingya it has become the top wanted destination for these refugees.

In addition, it is a Muslim majority nation and has a sizeable Rohingya diaspora. Furthermore, there are few opportunities for jobs and education in the camps. And this is why the traffickers are offering the refugees to take them to Malaysia.

However, one of the refugees who has risked his life and went to Malaysia he claims that after living there for six years he is still not allowed to work, his kids cannot go to school, above all, there is no future. Bangladeshi security forces are trying to stop this smuggling on a small scale.

Since 2018 Bangladesh's law enforcement agencies have picked up more than 500 Rohingya from coastal villages and boats as they waited to board boats. Besides, at least seven suspected traffickers were shot dead in 2019 in clashes with police. Trafficking often increases during the November-March period when the sea is safest for the small fishing trawlers used in the risky trips.

Is there an end to it? Rohingyas are living a miserable life where they are now in the refugee camps. To bring to an end to the misery for Rohingyas we need to ensure their safe return to their home country, Myanmar.

Until their safe return to their home country with their citizenship status their misery will not stop. Bangladesh's government is trying to do as much as possible to ensure their safe return. Now it is time for the international community and the donor agencies and I/NGOs to work together to ensure their citizenship rights.

The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration, Comilla University, Bangladesh. He can be reached at,

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