A number of Rohingya men have been using bribes or the cover of darkness to evade Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and return to Myanmar to check on their farmland and properties.
Rohingya camp leaders said some of the men return to Bangladesh after a few days with their belongings, while others stay several days more. There have been instances, however, when the Rohingya do not return at all and can no longer be traced.
Yasir Arafat, currently residing in Balukhali Rohingya camp, is from the Sikdarpara area of Maungdaw. “I came here with 10 of my family members but left behind 20 others in Myanmar. So about 10 days ago, I sneaked into Myanmar to bring them to the camp,” he said.
Arafat said his friends, Salimullah and Syed Ahmad, accompanied him on the overnight journey.
“We crossed the Naf River in a boat, which a broker arranged for us in exchange for money. We waited for a while and entered my village after all the Myanmar army men had left,” he said.
“Later, I gathered my family members and brought them to Daungkhali Char of Maungdaw, an area bordering Bangladesh. I also managed to retrieve some land documents.”
Arafat said he returned to Balukhali camp with just three family members. “The rest will come with a small group of Rohingyas soon,” he said.
Though Arafat did return to the camp, his two friends did not. Arafat said he had spoken with Salim recently by phone but had been unable to reach Syed despite repeated attempts.
Rohingya men from at least eight different camps in Teknaf and Ukhiya have been travelling back and forth across the border in this manner.
One of them, Jahangir Alam, said he and four others left Kutupalong Rohingya camp in Ukhiya on October 22, and travelled to North Rakhine’s Reikkapara under Fakira Bazar of Maungdaw.
“We crossed the border through the hilly area of Gorjon Bonia in Bandarban. We reached Myanmar at night, sneaking past BGB soldiers,” he said.
Jahangir’s companion that night, Ayub, said they went back to check if there was anything left of their houses, land, crops and properties. Afterwards they both returned to Bangladesh; their three companions did not.
Another Rohingya man, Khairullah, has ventured back to Fakira Bazar of Maungdaw with his family twice in the past two months, returning on both occasions to Balukhali Rohingya camp.
Abdul Aziz Bhulu, Osman Kalu and Mufiz Uddin also made the journey several times with the support of BGB, BGP, brokers and smugglers.
Some of the Rohingya men go back with their families to see if they can resettle in Rakhine, but decide against it given the potential for torture by Myanmar army and local Mogh groups.
The five block leaders of Balukhali camp - locally referred to as Majhi - told the Dhaka Tribune that it was possible some of the frequent returnees are using the opportunity to smuggle drugs like yaba into the country with the help of corrupt BGB and Myanmar's Border Guard Police personnel.
The claims were emboldened after a Rohingya man in one of the camps was recently caught carrying 105 pieces of yaba during a raid by a mobile court. Police sources said they have received information that some people are trying to take advantage of the Rohingya crisis and set up yaba store houses within the camps.
Cox’s Bazar’s Deputy Commissioner Md Ali Hossain said: “The movement of all Rohingyas is being monitored to avoid any kind of untoward incident in the country. Based on intelligence reports, we have already increased vigilance at border areas and at the 12 Rohingyas camps.”
BGB sources said a sizeable number of male Rohingyas who entered the country after the latest influx began on August 25 had gone back to Myanmar to see if any of their property was left, before returning to Bangladesh with the second influx in mid-October.
“We thoroughly search every Rohingya before allowing them to enter the country on humanitarian grounds,” BGB Cox’s Bazar Ad-hoc Region Director (operation) Lt Col Khalid Hasan told the Dhaka Tribune. “There is no scope that the incoming Rohingyas are bringing in any kind of illegal goods.”
According to Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission, about 624,000 Rohingyas had entered Bangladesh up to November 7, to escape the violence in Rakhine state.