Driven by desperation, Rohingya refugees risk their lives at sea

“I agreed with my son’s decision to go to Malaysia, but I lost my son,” Hussain, 65, said. “Now I don’t know why I should live.”

Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country, has long been a top destination for Rohingya refugees, some of whom later send for their families to join them. Young women are also transported there to marry Rohingya men whom they may or may not know.

Kutupalong resident Mohammad Majid said his 20-year-old sister, Minara, had left for Malaysia by boat in November to marry her boyfriend. 

“It’s been two months, and we don’t know her situation or where she is,” Majid, 30, said. “We are trying to contact our sister, but no one gives us any information.”

Not everyone leaves the camp by choice. Sofura Khatun says her 14-year-old son, Noor Qader, was abducted by traffickers on his way to school in November.

Two weeks later, she said, her son called her and said, “Mom, save me, they are hitting me. I am being taken to Malaysia by a trawler.”

She said a broker took the phone back and told her he would sell her son unless she paid him $500. Though she complied, she said, she has not had any news since.

“The traffickers didn’t take my child, they took the shelter I cherished for 14 years and my dreams and hopes,” Khatun, 45, said. “How do I get my child back?”

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