Rohingya refugees who escaped from Myanmar with only their lives intact during the latest spell of targeted violence will be housed in an extended area behind Balukhali and Kutupalong refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.
The district administration is constructing camps and roads on a 2,000-acre forest plot to keep all the Rohingya who have so far entered Bangladesh in one place.
Concerned locals, however, point out that the camp will inflict lasting damage to local wildlife while the new settlement is susceptible to wild animal incursions and landslides.
Only on Sunday night, two Rohingya were trampled to death and several others were injured after a herd of wild elephants ran through the new camp.
Currently, about 800,000 Rohingya are residing in the Cox’s Bazar camps, according to Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu.
Since 1978, an estimated 400,000 Rohingya have taken shelter in Bangladesh at various times. Although many of them returned home over time, thousands more arrived have fled the waves of violence in Rakhine state.
Cox’s Bazar local administration officials said the refugee crisis worsened after the latest influx began on August 25, prompting a government order to keep the refugees in one place.
Ukhiya Upazila Nirbahi Officer Main Uddin said the Rohingya refugees will be housed in a 2,000-acre plot centering on the existing Balukhali and Kutupalong camps.
“We are constructing shelters, setting up tube-wells and toilets and arranging other facilities for them,” he said.
Main Uddin said no road was supposed to be in the area since it was under the forest department.
“There was a path there when the registered camp was constructed and vehicles also used to ply the road. Now, seven points have been fixed for relief distribution (so) we constructed four or five paths for vehicles to travel to these points,” he said.
“Roads will be constructed once the refugees settle there. Hundreds of thousands of people will live there. So, the construction of roads in the area will only be natural.”
Rights activist Nur Khan said it might be possible to accommodate the Rohingya in the 2,000 acre plot but order must be restored first and steps should be taken to increase aid.
The government is also working on biometric registration of the Rohingya and building a database. But the registration work is progressing at a snail’s pace and might take several years to finish.
Ain o Salish Kendra said only 3,000 Rohingya had been registered up to September 16, and urged the government to enlist the UNHCR to help with the biometric registration process.
District administration officials said they would soon increase the number of biometric registration booths to 25 from two.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune