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Cornered, Rohingyas choose a life beyond law

By Kailash Sarkar
2, 2013
are around 30,000 registered Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh
with limited choices because of their ‘statelessness’, many Rohingyas living in
the country have chosen to live outside the law by paving the way for a section
of people on both sides of the Bangladesh-Myanmar border to reap rich illegal
are getting increasingly involved with various criminal activities, including
cross-border trading of drugs and firearms, helping them to be smuggled in and
out of the country.
number of Rohingyas assuming the identities of Bangladeshis, with doctored
passports and documentations, are also going abroad, especially to the Middle
to sources, unscrupulous officials at the passports and immigration departments
and recruiting agencies, and their local agents in Cox’s Bazar, ‘help’ Rohingyas
move out of the country.
are also helped to move in illegally, through the border shared with Myanmar.
the last year, the members of Armed Police Battalion (APBn), Detective Branch
(DB), Immigration Police, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and Coast Guard
arrested several thousand Rohingyas from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport
in Dhaka, at different border crossing points and from various other places.
them, more than 400 were arrested at Dhaka airport as they attempted to flee
overseas using fake Bangladeshi passports.
Aref, the superintendent of police (SP), told the Dhaka Tribune that they
arrested several hundred Rohingyas – mostly female – during their attempts to
travel abroad using Bangladeshi passports.
of them were heading towards Middle Eastern countries,” said Aref, who is also
the commanding officer of the APBn at the Dhaka airport.
stressed about finding the people responsible for assisting the shams from
“within” the system. “It is important to find the people who are involved in
the process of supplying Bangladeshi passports to those who are not Bangladeshi
Iqbal, a senior assistant superintendent of APBn, said they also arrested many
Bangladeshis along with the Rohingyas trying to leave the country illegally.
from these arrests, we also collected detailed information on many brokers who
assist Rohingyas to go abroad, usually for a fee between Tk150,000 and
300,000,” he added.
talking to the Dhaka Tribune, Ashiq Sayeed, the special superintendent at the
passport section of the Special Branch, said, “Irregularities in police
verification (necessary before issuing a passport) are nothing new. It has been
going on for a long time.”
Gen. Aziz Ahmed, director general of BGB, described the BGB’s part in the
affair. “Some 11,386 Rohingya people were detained in the last two-and-a-half
years, and millions of Yaba tablets were seized as they were being smuggled
from Myanmar.”
said, Rohingyas are often given tempting promises of a better life by the
unscrupulous manpower agents, who maintain close ties with the officials at the
government’s departments of passports and immigration.
Rohingyas are a Muslim people with roots in the Arakan state of western
Myanmar. Because of persistent sectarian violence in the region, they started
fleeing to Bangladesh in 1978, until their entrance was restricted over a
decade ago.
are around 30,000 registered Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, living in abject
conditions in two refugee camps at the Teknaf upazila of Cox’s Bazar. But about
half a million unregistered Rohingyas are believed to be living in different
parts of Chittagong.

800,000 Rohingyas live in Myanmar.