There is a growing resentment among the locals in Cox’s Bazar over Rohingya refugees entering the labour market illegally with the will to work at a lower price to earn a living and survive, a fact-finding mission has found.
The locals had come forward to help the refugees from Myanmar’s Rakhine State in the initial stage in late August, but they are not very happy now about the Rohingyas taking a cut of their livelihood, in a place where tourism is the main source of revenue, says the mission.
The five-member mission on Monday also told a press briefing that a number of human rights issues still needed to be maintained properly at the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar to tackle the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
The team, which assessed the human rights concerns and socio-economic impact of the Rohingyas’ presence in the local communities and across Bangladesh, warned that new crises would pose serious threats in near future if these issues were not addressed soon.
As of December 7, some 646,000 Rohingyas have arrived in Bangladesh from Myanmar’s Rakhine State since August 25, taking the total number of refugees to more than 850,000, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Currently, some 71 local and international non-government organisations are running around 130 projects at the camps to ensure aids to the refugees and their rights.
The fact-finding mission, formed by South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), visited the camps and areas where the refugees have taken shelter between December 7 and 11. They also met with the local residents and administration officials along with the local and international agencies providing humanitarian assistance to the refugees.
The mission was led by SAHR Chairperson Sultana Kamal. The four other members were Sara Hossain of Bangladesh, Bharat Bhushan of India, Jeehan Mahmood of the Maldives, and Rajendra Ghimire of Nepal.
At the media call at Dhaka Reporters Unity on Monday, they said an effective leadership would be able to bring down the frustration among the locals over the Rohingyas devaluing their labour market price.
Eminent lawyer and rights activist Sultana Kamal said the authorities should not take major decisions without consulting the locals, who also need to be reminded that they are helping the refugees.
She also suggested having the Rohingyas who are educated engage in constructive activities inside the camps – such as teaching and giving paramedical training.
The mission members said possibility of outbreak of water borne diseases was high as most tube-wells were installed right beside toilets, which were contaminating the drinking water.
The Inter Sectoral Coordination Group in a report published Monday also said that diphtheria was rapidly spreading in the refugee camps. As of December 8, over 110 people had contracted the disease, including six fatalities.
The SAHR mission said they also found no immediate measures that would stop any fire in case of such incident.
Sexual and rape victims, who are currently living in the camps and in need of immediate mental support, were still not coming forward, said Sultana Kamal, adding that more psychologists were needed in the camps to identify and treat them in order to bring them into normal life.
Sara Hossain, also a lawyer, said they also did not know the correct number of Rohingya women who were raped during the violent crackdown of the Myanmar military forces and became pregnant later. “Justice is being delayed as they are choosing to remain silent.”
Kamal said they also did not see enough presence of aid workers, journalists and representatives of many South Asian countries.
Asked what would compel India and China to play active role in resolving the crisis, journalist Bharat Bhushan said the crisis would not be resolved soon.
He said a regional approach was needed as Bangladesh would not be able to handle it alone.
The Indian and Chinese people need to know the dimension of this crisis before they start putting pressure on their governments to act accordingly, Bhusan added.
The members of the SAHR fact-finding mission also emphasized Bangladesh signing the Refugee Convention of 1951 and create a national framework to ensure the refugees their rights.