Some of the Rohingyas who were given shelter in Cox’s Bazar have left the camps, evading checkposts, and have started working illegally in different places across Bangladesh.
According to the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission, as of January 1, some 672,700 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh fleeing the violence which erupted in Myanmar on August 25 last year.
The government of Bangladesh gave shelter to the members of the minority group in 12 camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas.
In a report last November, an intelligence agency said some of the Rohingyas who entered Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban districts in 2017 are moving to other parts of Bangladesh with the help of some locals and their peers who had entered the country before last year’s influx.
According to the intelligence agency, some Rohingyas had also gone abroad from Bangladesh with the help of some syndicates.
The report said: “Many Rohingya women are working in different residences in Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong and Bandarban districts.
“The human traffickers can cash in the situation. So, it is important to keep them [Rohingyas] in a common place to help the repatriation process.”
During a 46-day visit to Cox’s Bazar at the end of last year, this Dhaka Tribune correspondent found that many Rohingya adolescents were illegally working at different places, including shops and local restaurants.
One Kamal (pseudonym), who works at a well-known local restaurant in Ukhiya Bazar, told the Dhaka Tribune: “My family came to Ukhiya during the violence in Rakhine in 2012.
“I am working here as a hotel boy for the last couple of years so that I can bear the expenses of my family.”
The restaurant’s Supervisor Kafil Uddin said: “Two more Rohingyas who entered the area recently are also working here as hotel boys. They were hired based on Kamal’s recommendation.”
Besides, it was also noticed that the Rohingya men were working as day labourers in and around Cox’s Bazar for a lower price, which led to agitation among the local labourers.
Salamatullah, a resident of Ramu’s Khuniapalang area, said the Rohingya men were getting more work than the local labourers because they charge less.
“Some locals are helping them [Rohingyas] hide their identities. The people who provide work to the Rohingyas are aware of the truth but are keeping silent for the benefit of their business,” he said adding that the scope for local labourers is decreasing.
Shahidullah, a 25-year-old Rohingya who has been studying at a local Qawmi madrasa in Cox’s Bazar since 2013, talked to the Dhaka Tribune about his family’s plan to move abroad from Bangladesh.
He said his step-sister and her in-laws moved to Cox’s Bazar some 15 years back and his brother-in-law Mossaraf Mia (pseudonym) has been living in Saudi Arabia for several years.
“My brother-in-law is trying to take his family and my mother abroad for a better livelihood,” Shahidullah said adding that his mother came to Bangladesh following the recent violence.
Selim, who fled Kinisi area in Buthidaung, said: “I have visited Malaysia with Bangladeshi passport.
“The Malaysian government sent me back when they found out that my documents were fake.”
“Now, I am trying to go to another Muslim country with Bangladeshi passport,” said the 29-year-old man, who is living at Kutupalong unregistered camp.
He also revealed that a local syndicate offered to send him abroad free of cost if he convinces two or three Rohingyas to go with him.
According to the June 2017 Rohingya census of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the Rohingyas who entered the country in 1978, 1991-92, 2012, and 2015-16 had spread to 50 districts out of the total 64 districts in the country.
Inspector Manash Barua, in-charge of special police outpost at the Rohingya camps, said the Rohingyas, who have been living in other areas by hiding their real identities, visit the camps in an attempt to take their relatives to their residences.
He said: “As the language of the Rohingyas is similar to the dialect in Chittagong, the members of law enforcement agencies from other districts face troubles in identifying the refugees.”
Manash added saying that administrative officials and members of law enforcement agencies from Chittagong region were kept at different point to ease the detection process of the Rohingyas.
Since the recent influx began, members of law enforcement agencies arrested several Rohingyas for identifying themselves as Bangladeshis, and illegally staying in different parts of Bangladesh.
Cox’s Bazar district police sources said since September, they sent back some 5,000 Rohingyas to the camps after they sneaked out of it.
Rohingya Repatriation Committee’s Advisor Adil Chowdhury said: “Rohingyas must be kept in a particular area. It would not be wise to allow them to go everywhere.
“If the Rohingyas spread out, possibilities of Yaba peddling and human trafficking would increase. Sending them back to their country is the appropriate solution to the crisis.”
Cox’s Bazar’s Superintendent of Police (SP) AKM Iqbal Hossain said 13 check-posts were set up to keep a watch over the movement of Rohingyas and the locals in the area.
He added two of the check-posts were being operated by Bangladesh Army while the rest were maintained by police.