More than 900,000 Rohingya people have been displaced from Myanmar due to decades-long violent and targeted campaigns led by the Myanmar military.
In 2017, an escalation in this violence forced around 700,000 Rohingya to flee across the border into Bangladesh, where many remain five years on. They joined other Rohingya people who had fled previous waves of violence and now live in the world’s largest refugee camp.
Many others have sought shelter in other parts of the region, including in Malaysia.
Life-or-death experiences to reach safety
Rohingya people have been risking dangerous journeys across the Andaman Sea to reach Malaysia, fleeing violence and persecution, for the past 30 years. Because the Rohingya are stateless and continue to be denied citizenship in Myanmar, they lack protection from their home country and the necessary documents to enter other countries.
“Rather than face death or torture, the majority of us choose to leave by sea,” one man told MSF. “The voyage to Malaysia is always perilous, it is a life-or-death experience.”
Refugees now in Malaysia say that Rohingya are subjected to violence and abuse from smugglers during these sea journeys, which can take months. They report not being given enough food and water for the crossing, with some people running out of food supplies weeks before reaching their destination.
One refugee who spoke with MSF said some people became malnourished or even died before reaching their destination.