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Gangs, kidnappings, murders drive Rohingya from camps

Late last week, a boat crammed with Rohingya refugees fleeing a squalid camp in Bangladesh capsized off the coast of Indonesia. Around 75 people were rescued, including nine children, but more than 70 are missing and presumed dead.

This wasn’t an isolated incident. The number of Rohingya people trying to escape refugee camps by boat has skyrocketed in recent months.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 1,783 Rohingya refugees boarded boats from Bangladesh from January to October 1, 2023. Since then, around 3,100 people have embarked on these treacherous journeys – an increase of nearly 74%.

Since January 2023, around 490 Rohingya have been reported dead or missing, including 280 since October 1.

Their attempts to reach countries like Malaysia and most recently Indonesia are being met with refusals and pushbacks, leaving many Rohingya stranded at sea and vulnerable to exploitation, trafficking and even death.

Why are so many Rohingya trying to flee in recent months? And how should the international community respond to this increasingly desperate humanitarian crisis?

In a <a href=«» s_bazar_bangladesh>new article

recently submitted for peer review, we (two Australian academics and six anonymous Rohingya activists) describe the “push factors” that have been identified in community-based research in the camps, which are forcing many people to board boats to try to reach safety.

Living with constant tension

The nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees now living in Bangladesh are survivors of a massive Myanmar military operation in 2017 aimed at driving them from