Bangladesh forces 2,000 Rohingya off remote island

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Rohingya refugees in a truck on a Bangladesh highway

Bangladesh authorities have
forced more than 2,000 Rohingya to leave a remote island where they were
hiding out after fleeing violence in Myanmar, officials said Monday. The
United Nations says 87,000 mostly Rohingya refugees have poured over
the border into Bangladesh since the latest round of fighting broke out
10 days ago in Myanmar‘s neighbouring Rakhine state.

The
vast majority have entered overland or by crossing the Naf border
river. But as desperation grows, some are braving the open seas to reach
the small island of St Martin’s nine kilometres (around six miles) off
Bangladesh’s coast.
Officials said the
island’s 9,000 residents, who share close cultural ties with the
Rohingya and speak a similar language, had been hiding around 2,000
recent arrivals but were ordered to give them up.
The
Rohingya are a mainly Muslim stateless ethnic minority who according to
rights groups have faced decades of persecution in mainly Buddhist
Myanmar.
The head of the local council
Noor Ahmad said mosque loudspeakers were used to ask residents to hand
Rohingya arrivals over to the coast guard.
“They told us to help find the Rohingya by any means and bring them to the coast guard camp,” said Ahmad.
Another
elected official, Farid Ahmed, said 2,011 Rohingya including children
were rounded up at the coast guard headquarters on Sunday evening and
taken away.
“Rohingya children were crying. But it is the government order. What can we do?” Ahmed told AFP.
“They
(Rohingya) said, where should we go? They (Myanmar forces) were killing
us there. Our houses were burnt. They were firing at us.”
Both men said the Rohingya had been taken back to Myanmar on boats.
One
senior security official who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity
said the Rohingya were taken back at night under escort from border
security forces.
Bangladesh coast guards
have intercepted and turned away hundreds more refugees as they tried to
approach the island, the official said.
Bangladesh
was already home to around 400,000 Rohingya before the current crisis
and has made clear it does not want to take in more.
But
it has been unable to stem the flow of refugees desperate to escape
renewed violence in Rakhine state, where they say their community has
suffered massacres at the hands of Buddhist mobs and the military.
Officials said the 2,011 Rohingya on the island had all arrived in the last few days.
“They were in different places in Saint Martin’s island and they were herded together,” said district administrator Ali Hossain.

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