Some newly arrived Rohingyas are now using fake documents and taking support from brokers to try and get Bangladeshi passports.
Many of the Rohingyas are avoiding the government-run biometric registration while making deals with some ill-motivated locals and brokers.
Cox’s Bazar Regional Passport Office’s Assistant Director Abu Nayeem Masum, confirming this, said: “The Rohingyas are using genuine documents of locals attempting to make passports in their names. They are paying some brokers and locals for this.”
On November 1, two Rohingya women, Tayeba and Chenoara, were given one month imprisonment on charges of attempting to make passports with falsified documents.
The Dhaka Tribune found that the two Rohingya women used genuine documents of two local women, the actual Tayeba and Cheonoara, to try and get passports.
The two local women – residents of Ukhiya’s Haldiyapalong area – are daughters of a Rohingya man Oli Ahmad, who came to Bangladesh in 1991 and married a local woman. The fake Tayeba and Chenoara are nieces of Oli Ahmad who have come to Bangladesh recently.
Oli Ahmad, however, denied the matter saying that he just sheltered the two Rohingya women. But local UP Chairman Shah Alam told the Dhaka Tribune that the Rohingya women were Oli’s relatives.
Within a week of the incident, another local Ezahar Alam was nabbed by law enforcers when helping a Rohingya woman, Rozina, get a passport using false information and fake documents.
Another Rohingya woman, Rezia Begum, on November 13 attempted to submit an application for a passport hiring fake parents and using falsified documents. Rezia was given a three-month term by a mobile court. Her fake parents managed to flee.
Cox’s Bazar Regional Passport Office sources said more than 250 applicants were trying to get Bangladeshi passports illegally with most being Rohingya women.
In October, Cox’s Bazar Sadar upazila administration found that one Shamsur Rahman, headmaster of Paschim Gomatoli High School, had taken a large amount of money from several Rohingyas saying he would provide them with documents by forging signatures of local officials.
The local administration came to know this after arresting two Rohingyas through a mobile court on October 31 when trying to enlist as voters, said Md Noman Hossain, upazila nirbahi officer of Cox’s Bazar Sadar upazila.
The two Rohingya confessed before the mobile court that the teacher also made such deals with more than 10 Rohingyas in exchange for Tk10,000 to Tk20,000 per person.
The accused teacher had forged the signature of the UNO, local Union Parishad Chairman Rafiq Ahmad and Cox’s Bazar District Election Officer Mozammel Hossain for providing false information and documents to make the Rohingyas voters.
The teacher, however, is on the run.
Not only in Cox’s Bazar, two passport offices in Chittagong have also found more than 200 cases this year where Rohingyas have been attempting to get Bangladeshi passports with falsified documents, said Chittagong Divisional Passport Office sources.
It is alleged that more than 100,000 Rohingyas who first fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar had gone to different countries using the Bangladeshi passport in the last 20 years, Foreign Ministry sources said.
Shahidullah, 25, a Rohingya studying at a local Qawmi madrasa in Cox’s Bazar since 2013, said that his stepsister and her in-law’s family came to Cox’s Bazar about 15 years ago while his brother-in-law Mossaraf Mia (pseudonym) has been in Saudi Arabia for several years.
Another Selim, who fled from Kinisi area under Buthidaung township of Myanmar, told the Dhaka Tribune: “I have visited Malaysia with a Bangladeshi passport; later, the Malaysian government sent me back after discovering that my documents were fake.”
The Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission estimated that about 631,322 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh till November 20 after being displaced by the Myanmar Army.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (IRC) assumed 200,000 more Rohingya arrivals from Myanmar in coming weeks, bringing the total Rohingya population to over one million – only exacerbating an already unimaginable humanitarian crisis.
Some human trafficking syndicates are taking advantage of the situation of the helpless people with promises of work abroad and encouraging them to get Bangladeshi passports using false information and forged documents, said Inspector Manash Barua, in-charge of Special Police Camp at Rohingya camps.
Cox’s Bazar district’s Superintendent of Police AKM Iqbal Hossain said: “Police are showing zero tolerance so that no Rohingya can bag any citizenship facilities through any illegal ways. Police and intelligence agencies are continuously keeping a sharp eye on the displaced Rohingyas who were sheltered in Bangladesh on humanitarian grounds.”
Echoing the SP’s remarks, Cox’s Bazar Deputy Commissioner Ali Hossain said: “We are now checking before giving any facility to a person since our language, culture and physical features are identical to the Rohingya.”