Rohingya refugee Shahab Uddin thought the wooden trawler he boarded in February would be his ticket out of a camp in Bangladesh to a better life in Malaysia.
Instead, the voyage nearly killed him.
The 20-year-old was among almost 400 survivors pulled from the water, starving, emaciated and traumatized after the boat failed to reach Malaysia and spent weeks adrift before returning to Bangladesh in mid-April.
Hundreds more refugees are stranded on at least two other trawlers, rights groups say, as Southeast Asian governments tighten borders to keep out the new coronavirus, threatening a repeat of a 2015 boat crisis when hundreds of people died.
The United Nations has implored authorities to let the boats land, but anti-refugee sentiment is surging in Malaysia and governments say borders are sealed to keep out the coronavirus.
In interviews with Reuters, seven survivors from the rescued boat recalled two harrowing months.
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Estimates of the number of people who died on the boat ranged from several dozen to more than 100 – nobody kept count – but their accounts were consistent.
The survivors described hundreds of men, women, and children crammed on the boat, unable to move, squatting in rain and scorching sun until, as food and water ran out, they began to die of starvation, thirst, and beatings, their bodies tossed overboard. Some wept as they spoke.
“I thought I would not come back home alive,” said Uddin. “I missed my family, especially my parents.”
The group Fortify Rights said in a statement last week the operators of the boat “held their victims in conditions similar to slavery for the purposes of exploitation”.
Sep 14, 2020Staff Reporter Abul kalam of Camp 16 told to our correspondence that Rohingya Community Members actually want to go back to Myanmar, not to a island which is in the middle of bay of Bengal. It is really very dangerous during monsoon season. Recently, some leaders from different camps went to see the location whether […]
Sep 01, 2020
Aug 21, 2020