More than two months after Rohingya refugee Mohammad Shafique fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar, the 32-year-old wonders whether he will be able to return.
Under Burmese law, the Rohingya are de jure stateless and have long faced persecution and discrimination in Myanmar, human rights groups say. Meanwhile, Bangladesh, already home to more than 250,000, mostly undocumented Rohingya refugees, insists it is in no position to accept any more. Shafique told IRIN his story:
“There had always been trouble between Rohingya and Rakhine people, but never anything like this. So much violence and suffering. I felt I had no choice but to leave in October.
“However, life here in Bangladesh is not easy and there are restrictions on us here as well. We can’t go where we want and cannot legally work. Although I would like to return to Myanmar, I just don’t know when I can.
“Here in Bangladesh life is difficult. I only wish I could work so that I might help my family back in Myanmar.
“But that’s proving difficult. I am having trouble just supporting myself here, let alone my family. There are no jobs here for Rohingya and people have nothing to do but cut and collect wood for an income.
“Living here is difficult and I try to get by on what little I have.
“For those of us who have just arrived, there is a lot of fear, but also a lot of hope. At least here I am not afraid for my life. At least here I can sleep and get something to eat.
“Here most people don’t misbehave towards us. They treat us well. Sometimes they give us some food.
“Life in Myanmar for the Rohingya remains a struggle, and people do what they have to do to get by, while those with nothing have to borrow or beg to survive.
“If we can live in Myanmar with the freedom with which people of Bangladesh live then I would return to Myanmar. I came alone, my family’s back there. If there’s peace, I want to go back.”