Rakhine refugees lured by promise of jobs in Malaysia

Dishonest brokers lured 106 northern Rakhine State refugees who were arrested off the coast of Yangon last week to undertake the perilous sea journey with a promise of jobs in Malaysia, a source said.

The unidentified source said the refugees left Sittwe refugee camp on October 25. “They paid less than the normal price charged by smugglers, which is from K400,000 (US$250) to K500,000 per person,” he said.

 The refugees were arrested early last Friday off Yangon after their vessel broke down. A few of them who can speak the Myanmar language said they had not eaten for days.

News reports said four refugees were injured when policemen entered Ah Nauk Ye refugee camp on the outskirts of Sittwe and arrested two men suspected to be the owners of the boat used in the failed smuggling attempt.

According to The Bangkok Post and Reuters news agency, the police said they fired warning shots after some of the refugees tried to surround them with machetes and threw stones at them.

The newspaper report said that a witness disputed the police account of the incident and accused the officers of firing at the people who came out to look at what was happening. The Myanmar Times could not immediately verify the report.

Mohammad Hussin, 60, a community leader at another refugee camp, That Kal Pyin camp in Sittwe, said the refugees may have fled because they were tired of living in the camp since 2012 without being resettled permanently.

“We are living here for years and we have not been resettled or returned to our villages. I think the refugees fled because they no longer believe in the promises of the government that they would be resettled,” Hussin said.

He said the boat people were trying to sneak into Malaysia because of the lack of access to jobs, education, health care and freedom of movement in northern Rakhine.

U Soe Aung, head of Maungdaw township administration, said on Friday the refugees’ demands for citizenship and security must be heeded if they are in line with national law.

“If they qualify under the citizenship law, we must provide them citizenship,” he said.

He added that the government had done enough to ensure the safety and security of the repatriation and resettlement.

Plans to repatriate the first batch of over 2000 refugees from Bangladesh on Thursday fell through after some refugees held a demonstration against the repatriation plan, saying they were dissatisfied with the security and resettlement preparations of the Myanmar government.

The Bangladesh government said it has postponed the start of the repatriation process to the end of December.

Source: Myanmar Times
Link: https://www.mmtimes.com/news/rakhine-refugees-lured-promise-jobs-malaysia.html
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