They will shoot us if we go back

Say Rohingyas
Some Rohingyas, including a child, being pushed back at the border near Ghumdhum in Bandarban's Naikhyangchhari upazila. Photo: Anisur Rahman

The beautiful sunny August morning in the beach town meant very little to the hundreds of starving men, women and children in worn-out clothes near the borders.

They have fled their homes in Myanmar as security forces set their homes on fire, drive them away or simply shoot at them. Crossing the border to Bangladesh, they now want to find food and shelter.

A 70-year-old Rohingya man, Aminullah, and his wife, Motinnessa, break down after being ordered to go back. Photo: Anisur Rahman

"We did not find shelter in Kutupalang or Balukhali camps," said a middle-aged man in a group of about a hundred dishevelled Rohingyas heading to Ukhia of Cox's Bazar yesterday.

The group crossed the border on Sunday fleeing police attacks and has been going from one camp to another on foot since. Requesting not to be named, they said their worst fear now is to be pushed back.

A BGB man tries to help an emotionally overcome Rohingya woman. Photo: Anisur Rahman

"We watched the BGB men on the border very carefully for hours. We came across when BGB presence was thin," the man said, and the group resumed its journey on foot again.

In two official camps in Ukhia and Kutupalang, there are some 32,000 registered Rohingyas. Besides, two unregistered camps in the areas were set up to cope with a similar exodus of Rohingyas late last year when Myanmar military launched a crackdown on them.

Nearly 87,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh at the time. Both the unregistered camps are already crammed.

Travelling towards Jalpaitoli border area in Bandarban's Ghumdum, this staff photographer saw many such groups of Rohingyas on foot, mostly women in veils and children.

Their dishevelled faces and scared looks told that they were Rohingyas.

Another woman, Nur Begum, in tears at the checkpoint. Photo: Anisur Rahman

About a dozen BGB men were in Jalpaitoli, some four kilometres off Kutupalang camp. The crowd of Rohingyas could be close to a couple of thousands. They were pleading with the BGB men not to push them back to Myanmar. The BGB men, in response, said they did not have a choice and it was their official instruction to push them back.

"BGB men are turning them back," a rickshaw-puller said, but it couldn't be verified.

Abu Bakar Siddiqui, who was a union parishad chairman in Myanmar, said, "We fled fearing for life. We want to die here in Bangladesh, but not be killed like animals in Myanmar."

A Rohingya man walking back to Myanmar with his son on his back at the same border point. The photos were taken yesterday. Photo: Anisur Rahman

An elderly man was wailing loudly. Kala Mia, 60, who crossed the border with his daughter and three grandchildren, pleaded, "Please don't send us back to Myanmar. Let us be here in the open. They will shoot us if we go back."

Noor Begum, 35, said her 12-year-old son was killed by Myanmar police and she managed to flee with a two-year-old son a couple of days ago. Beside her was a couple -- Aminullah, 82 and Motinnesa, 70 -- lying on the ground – seemingly unable to walk.

On the way back to Ukhia, another group of Rohingyas was seen. As this correspondent bought some dry food for them, they began to compete each other to get a hold of something.