COX’S BAZAR: Bangladesh authorities prevented 84 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar from attempting a perilous boat journey to Malaysia, officials said on Saturday.
Police in Pekua said 67 Rohingya Muslims from Kutupalong – the largest refugee settlement in the world – were stopped as they waited to board a fishing trawler.
They included 31 women and 15 children.
On Saint Martin’s, a small Bangladesh island in the Bay of Bengal, the country’s coast guard stopped 17 other Rohingya and five Bangladeshi traffickers before they could board a rickety fishing boat.
Fayezul Islam Mondol, the regional coast guard commander, said they were acting on a tip off.
About 740,000 Muslim minority Rohingya have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh since a brutal military crackdown began in August 2017.
They joined another 300,000 Rohingya already living in overcrowded camps in the Cox’s Bazar area following previous bouts of violence.
Thousands of refugees attempt to flee the camps each year in pursuit of better opportunities in countries such as Malaysia and Thailand.
They frequently spend their life savings to embark on dangerous boat journeys they believe will improve their lives, but many fall prey to international human trafficking gangs.
Most attempt the journey before March, when the sea is calm before the monsoon season sets in, but experts say traffickers are now convincing the refugees to attempt the crossing even in rough waters.
“This is a very alarming situation,” Jishu Barua, an aid worker specialising in trafficking, told AFP.