Wednesday, 03 June 2020

Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh: Bangladesh authorities have stepped up arresting Arakanese Rohingya refugees including refugees from official and makeshift camps along the border, according to a local from Ukhiya.

On February 23, five refugees who were arrested by police on February 12 were sent to Cox’s Bazaar jail from Ukhiya police station. On February 12, eight refugees were arrested by police, of whom three refugees were sent to Cox’s Bazaar jail and five were taken on remand by police on suspicion, the local added. 

On the same day, another eight refugees including official and unofficial refugees, who were arrested by Uhkiya police on February 22 were sent to Cox’s Bazaar jail, at about 1 pm. Of them, one refugee named Md. Rofique (40), son of Hashim Ullah, Block # A of Kutupalong makeshift camp was summoned to Ukhiya police station, at about 10 am, by Sub-inspector (SI) Nurul Islam of Ukhiya police station (who is on duty in official camp recently) and arrested on suspicion of sending news and photographs of refugees to foreign media groups, said a relative from the camp who declined to be named.         

On November 23, a local Bengali newspaper named Danik Himsari stated that a mobile, some news and photographs were seized from him. He has also connections with Kaladan Press Network (KPN). 

On 22 February, 15 refugees, including three children and women were arrested from Teknaf area by 42 Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) camped at Teknaf and pushed back the same day through Shapuri Dip in Bangladesh. Among them, some were refugees and some were Arakanese Rohingyas, who came to Bangladesh, said another refugee from Ukhiya. 

Lt. Col Mozamal Hossain, the Commander of 42 BDR Battalion of Teknaf said that the arrested were from different areas of Teknaf and were pushed back to Burma.

On 20 February, 13 Arakanese Rohingya refugees were arrested by Ukhiya police while they were returning to their Kutupalong makeshift camp in the evening after working outside the camp. Though the refugees are not allowed to go out of the camp, the refugees went to the work site secretly, according to a refugee from Kutupalong camp.

“It surprised refugees that authorities imposed curfew in Nayapara camp after 9 pm, where refugees are not allowed to go out their sheds and if anyone does not comply with the order, he/she will be arrested.”

Over 28,000 are officially registered refugees living in two official camps (in Nayapara 17,000 and in Kutupalong 11,000) and receiving humanitarian aid. 

The rest live either scattered among the local population or in makeshift camps near official ones without basic sanitation, water or supplies such as food and medicine. Many in the makeshift camps are facing starvation due to being denied work or receiving aid. Children from the surrounding makeshift camp are begging for food from the refugees in the official Kutupalong camp. The already dire situation in makeshift camp has become worse in recent months as the population has grown. Arakanese Rohingyas are seeking refuge there from a wave of violence that has forced them out of towns and villages. Incident of thefts, rape and physical assaults against unregistered Arakanese Rohingya refugees occurred frequently, according to refugees and other international human rights groups. 

Refugees have are beaten up by the police and BDR and even by local people. The government is creating panic among the Arakanese Rohingyas to send a message inside Burma to not come and settle in Bangladesh, according to sources.

A European Union delegation on a fact finding mission in Bangladesh earlier this month issued a resolution in the European Parliament on February 11 calling on Dhaka to recognize the unregistered Arakanese Rohingyas as refugees and to extend humanitarian support. “But, instead of this, we are pressurized by authorities and arrested and sent to jail,” said a refugee elder from the camp.

Bangladesh government fears that if the Arakanese Rohingyas are recognized as refugees in Kutupalong camp, it would encourage more refugees from inside Arakan to cross the Burma –Bangladesh border, said a local leader from Cox’s Bazaar.

Another refugee from Nayapara camp said, “It is not different from Burma. We take shelter here for fear of persecution by Burmese authorities, but our fate has not changed.”