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In transit: Rohingya refugees at Shahpori Island

Shahpori Island, which sits at the confluence of the river Naf, and the Bay of Bengal, is the last frontier for Rohingya refugees in their exodus from Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh. For those lucky enough to escape the circuitous web spun by middlemen offering to ferry the refugees to the relatively safer shores of Bangladesh, sighting land induces relief, albeit tinged with despair. 

Ismat Ara, and her infant son are among the fresh set of refugees who landed on October 12 in Shahpori Island after an overnight journey by boat. Her 13-year -old daughter was charred to death after the family home was set ablaze by projectiles from rocket launchers. Her husband was picked up in September by the Myanmar military, and has been incommunicado ever since.


So, when other families from her village Sain Dee Pran in northwest Myanmar, decided to leave for Bangladesh, Ara and her son had no option but to follow them. Ismat’s neighbour Rehana Begum has her own tale of separation and loss. She spoke to The Hindu of how her family got scattered after husband was rounded up when she was in an advanced stage of pregnancy. Her baby did not survive, and two of her daughters are untraceable.

Ara’s and Rehana’s stories are not unique. Almost all refugees who were interviewed by The Hindu narrate stories of woe that reiterate the fact that the ethnically motivated killings by the military, amounts to genocide. The violence has been unequivocally condemned at international forums, but continues unabated. 

Till a lasting solution is formulated, the boat people will continue to remain pawns in the hands of policy-makers who do not wish to disturb the geopolitics in the region by upsetting the Myanmar government. The influx of refugees has also been used by political outfits to create hubris for gaining political mileage. For Ismat and her lot , currently moored at Shahpori Island, the road to resettlement remains long and windy. A return to normalcy, however, seems unlikely. 

Read the full report on Rohingya refugees who are currently stationed at Shahpori Island here.

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Printable version | Jul 21, 2021 4:06:40 PM |

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