'Bangladesh’s border protection agency finally let us in after several hours'
The morning of August 30, 2017 was not a quite normal one for Md Hussain and his family at Maungdaw in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. As his morning routine, Hussain was busy taking care of his crops, and cattle before going to his shop.
But as the clock struck 7:30am, his world was shredded as the army stormed the village, destroying everything, and attacking everyone on sight.
Witnessing the atrocities, Hussain fled with his wife and three children, to join scores of others, who too left behind their ancestral lands.
Forced to abandon everything from his village Thein Thay Pyin, Hussain was not sure if he or his family would reach safety.
But after almost two years, he now feels quite safe. Gone are the sleepless nights, staying up to keep vigil against scouring Myanmar forces.
“We arrived near Naikhongchhari border (in Bandarban) around dusk on August 31, 2017, after walking for hours; that too, without food and water. There were many injured among us,” he recalled.
“Bangladesh’s border protection agency finally let us in after several hours,” he said, adding that they made it to the Ukhiya Rohingya camp around 3am on September 1.
He said: “We grew familiar with news of Rohingya villages being burnt to ashes. Killings and rapes became commonplace. There is no fear of that in the camps now.
“We would not even mind starving in Bangladesh, but we still want to return to our birthplace, and resume a normal life like in the past,” opined the 29-year-old Rohingya, currently residing at the Balukhali Refugee Camp-11 in Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhiya.
Hope rekindles, but uncertainty lingers
A father of two sons and a daughter, Hussain finds himself satisfied with the accommodation, and other necessities including food, healthcare, and education at the camp.
His two sons — one aged 9 and another 5 - are receiving an education at a school run by a non-government organization (NGO), and the daughter is still a toddler.
“I do not know what will happen to my sons and daughters when they grow-up. I remain concerned about their education. Here in the camps, there is scope for education after primary schooling.”
Hussain said he wanted his children to be well educated for a better living.
When asked if he would have another child, he replied: “How can I afford it since I have no income? The camp education also discourages against an additional child.”
Problems in the camp
Hussain’s family was housed in a makeshift home when they arrived. The relief they receive is inadequate, and fails to meet the nutritional requirement.
“There is not enough food for the five of us,” he said.
His shabby home has been besieged by gusts, and heavy rain over the last two years.
He also pointed out that the camp’s medical facilities can only provide treatment for general health issues.
“But when it comes to a critical health complication, we hardly get proper treatment here,” he added.
Unemployment, he stressed, is another issue that the Rohingya people at the camps are experiencing, forcing them to spend their time idly.
“Our lives could have been better if we had the chance to make some money,” he wistfully said.
Wary of safe repatriation
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune about the forthcoming repatriation of 3,540 Rohingya refugees on August 22, he said the process is not satisfactory yet.
“The Myanmar government’s approach is unclear. Security after repatriation remains a major concern,” he claimed, calling for deployment of UN peacekeepers in Rakhine.
According to a recent Reuters report, the 3,540 refugees have already been cleared by Myanmar, from a list of more than 22,000 names sent by Bangladesh authorities.
On August 25, 2017, Myanmar security forces, aided by local Buddhist mobs, and people from different ethnic groups, launched a brutal crackdown on the Rohingyas, forcing hundreds of thousands to cross into Cox’s Bazar.
Since then, nearly 720,000 Rohingyas took shelter at different refugee camps in Teknaf, and Ukhiya alongside the 400,000 Rohingyas who crossed over before them, fleeing persecution in the past years, causing a number of socio-economic problems for the host community.