Rohingya refugees, a Muslim minority group fleeing persecution in Myanmar, attempting to reach the shores of Malaysia are being held hostage by human traffickers (Reuters 1). Family members of these refugees living in Bangladesh say they have received calls from traffickers demanding money for the safe arrival of their loved ones (Reuters 1). Victims have stated that the traffickers have threatened to leave them stranded at sea, rape, and kill them if the money is not received (Reuters 1). Family members in Bangladesh cannot pay these ransoms as they are refugees themselves living in extreme poverty (Reuters 1).
Rohingya Refugees are seeking better lives in Malaysia after fleeing Myanmar due to violence and Bangladesh due to overcrowded refugee camps (Reuters 2). Traffickers have been able to take advantage of the situation by charging for places on boats to Malaysia (Reuters 1). Once they are at sea, traffickers contact family members requesting additional payments for their family’s safe arrival (Reuters 1). Rohingya Refugees who managed to escape or avoid traffickers are being detained by Malaysian authorities due to Covid-19 and increased border security (HRW).