Police says aid workers require work permits including work visa to carry out their relief work in the Rohingya camps
Around 40 international aid workers in Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar found their daily routine impeded when the police set up check-posts and asked to see their passports and work permits.
Dozens of passports were being policed at a check-point in Ukhiya.
Ukhiya police station Officer-in-Charge Abul Khayer confirmed that 39 foreign aid workers had been detained for further scrutiny of their paperwork.
Additional Superintendent of Police Afruzul Haque Tutul said the initiative was undertaken to encourage foreign aid workers helping with the Rohingya crisis to follow proper procedure and paperwork.
He said: “If you go to a foreign country on tourist visa, can you work? We just want to encourage the aid agencies, even the UN to follow proper procedure. Many UN bodies have already filed for proper paperwork.”
He said the inspections will continue randomly.
Earlier in February, 11 foreign aid workers were detained for failing to show their passport, visa, and work permits. They were later freed after signing pledges which guaranteed they would not visit the refugee camps without proper documents.
Aid agencies complain
Aid workers from the UN, Red Cross, and Medecins Sans Frotieres (MSF) among other agencies, complained the delay was preventing them from providing timely aid – medical and otherwise.
According to the police authorities, aid workers who arrived on tourist visa cannot work in Rohingya camps. Several aid workers mentioned that they have been working for a long time, and that the Foreign Ministry had not issued any instructions pertaining to the visa involving relief.
Andrea Manenti from the British Red Cross said: “We have been hearing for last two-three weeks that Bangladeshi authorities are stopping the foreigner aid workers on their way to the camps. But today was the first time I faced this. I was supposed to provide sanitation, but I am stuck here with my entire team.”
For over four hours, the Japanese Red Cross and the MSF were also found waiting dejectedly with medical supplies for the Rohingya refugees.
Sara Creta, communications manager for MSF Bangladesh, told the Dhaka Tribune: ”MSF, which has worked in Bangladesh for the past 25 years, is a fully registered organization in Bangladesh with permissions to operate in Cox’s. MSF healthcare facilities in and around the camps provide critical, life-saving services for both local and refugee population. In order to support the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, we work in 15 health posts, three primary health centres and five in-patient health facilities in Cox’s Bazar district. This morning, three members of our staff along with many other international humanitarian workers were stopped at a police checkpoint in the vicinity of Ukhiya looking into administrative issues. At the moment, we are waiting for this paperwork issue to be resolved. We remain committed to complying with all regulations in Bangladesh and to continuing to provide necessary medical humanitarian services in the country.”