On Friday, during a visit to the district, the Dhaka Tribune correspondent found them begging, sitting in groups, on both sides of roads near the Kutupalong refugee camp, some 45km away from Cox’s Bazar town.
When passengers get off vehicles, the refugees surround them in the hope of alms. They even beg for money and food intercepting the running vehicles.
Rashida Khatun, 60, Safiqua Khatun, 60, Marium Begum, 75, and Zohura Begum, 45, who fled Myanmar’s Mongdu province after the atrocities had erupted in October last year, are among the starving refugees undergoing even more sufferings since they have to pay Tk300-500 a month for their rented shanties outside the cramped camp.
The Kutupalong camp apart, there are many unregistered camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas, where 32,000 registered refugees managed to find refuge, while some 400,000 unregistered refugees are spread out all over the district.
Around 70,000 of them have meanwhile taken shelter in squalid shanties in the areas, according to a UN report.
Whatever small amounts of food they could bring with them when escaping persecution in their own country, have already exhausted. The food provided by international humanitarian organisations does not meet their demands, leading many to starve, they told the Dhaka Tribune.
When describing the horrors of persecution, Syed Hossain from Mongdu said he saw in dismay his daughter violated and two brothers tortured brutally by the Myanmar army.
“I along with my family members fled to Bangladesh being unable to bear the torture any more,” the 50-year-old man added.
Hossain echoed hundreds of other victims who said they witnessed assaults against the Rohingya Muslims.
Abu Taher, Munaf and Salim Ullah, all aged between eight and 10, said they lost their fathers and/or mothers in the mass killing and that saw the army personnel reduce their houses to rubble.
However, locals alleged that the refugees in the camps do not abide by laws and regulations, and they move around according to their whims.
Disregarding the bars on their movement, some even travel beyond the district, with law enforcers not taking a hard line against them on humanitarian grounds, they said.
Free movement of refugees and asylum seekers is prohibited under international law.
When contacted, Supreme Court lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua said: “As per the international law, the movement of refugees outside their designated camps is not allowed, as there is a risk of falling prey to further assaults by locals.”
Describing the deficient handling of the refugee camps, Hamidul Haque Chowdhury, president of the Rohingya Refugee Prevention and Repatriation Action Committee in Ukhiya upazila, said: “Someday the situation will get even worse, and there will be none to lend their generous hands to help them out.
“Finding nothing to do to make their ends meet, they might commit crimes like robbery and mugging. The number of thieves and looters in the area has already increased.”
Hamidul, also the president of the Ukhiya upazila unit Awami League, suggested the Bangladesh government with the help of the international community should take immediate measures to send them back home in Myanmar.
Obaidul on shifting Rohingyas
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader on Sunday said as Cox’s Bazar is a small place and also a tourist town, the Rohingyas would be rehabilitated to Thengar Char in Hatiya on humanitarian grounds.
The decision was made to protect the beach town’s natural beauty and ensure the security of tourists, he told reporters at Cox’s Bazar’s Kolatoli.
The government will take necessary steps for their livelihood and education there until the Myanmar government takes them back, Obaidul said.