After mass arrests during Eid, Rohingya say movements further restricted

Ahammad Foyez and Abdur Rahman
2022.05.12
Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
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After mass arrests during Eid, Rohingya say movements further restricted Rohingya children look through a bamboo fence at Camp-1W in Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, April 22, 2022.
BenarNews

Rohingya living in southeastern Bangladesh said their movements have been further restricted after several hundred refugees were nabbed at Cox’s Bazar beach just after Eid al-Fitr, a time when many Muslims go on holiday.

Already, Rohingya are not permitted to leave the sprawling refugee settlements that house nearly 1 million people who fled violence in Myanmar.

Now, police are not allowing them to visit other camps freely, several Rohingya leaders and refugees told BenarNews, while a new “camp-to-camp movement pass” has been introduced in at least two of the camps.

BenarNews obtained two copies of the pass, which states that Rohingya are required to obtain signatures from three different people – the head of their camp and two community leaders – before visiting any other camp.

Of the two passes, one was issued in Camp-15, in Ukhia sub-district. A Rohingya leader there, Md. Habib, told BenarNews that he had been instructed by officials to issue the pass as the trend of visiting by Rohingya had increased.

“Recently I have arranged a pass for a woman of my camp as one of her relatives passed away in another camp,” Habib said while declining to elaborate.

Mohammad Islam, another Rohingya, told BenarNews: “A few days ago, I sought permission from the camp in-charge to visit my sister in another camp. She is very ill. But the authorities did not give me permission yet.”

Police who have jurisdiction over Camp 15 said they learned about the pass when questioned by journalists.

“We did not issue such a pass. It may be an effort of other authorities,” Kamran Hossen, an additional superintendent of police of the Armed Police Battalion-8, told BenarNews.

An official at the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission – the central government agency that oversees the camps – gave a similar response.

“We are not aware of the new pass,” Shamsud Douza, the additional refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, told BenarNews.

On condition of anonymity because they were afraid of repercussions, several Rohingya told BenarNews that greater restrictions on their movement began following Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that ends the fasting month, Ramadan.

On May 4 and 5, a total of 656 Rohingya people were held by police at different places in Cox’s Bazar district after they left their camps to celebrate the holiday, according to police. The Rohingya were returned to their camps and were not charged.

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Bangladesh authorities had introduced a draconian permissions system for movement within camps, and were “reportedly planning to institute the policy across all camps.”

A total of 926,561 Rohingya live in Bangladesh camps, according to the UNHCR. Of that number, about 738,000 fled Myanmar following a campaign of persecution and violence launched by the military in August 2017, termed ethnic cleansing and possible genocide by the United Nations.

Bangladesh is home to 34 registered refugee camps – mainly in Cox’s Bazar’s Teknaf and Ukhia sub-districts.

Some Rohingya compared the new requirements to oppressive conditions they had faced in Myanmar, HRW said.

“Human Rights Watch spoke with five Rohingya refugees who described being beaten by APBn officers and other officials at camp checkpoints over the past few days,” it said, using an acronym for the Armed Police Battalion.

“We live in camps surrounded by barbed wire fencing, with no options for celebration, so we went [to a nearby beach] to celebrate Eid,” the report quoted an unnamed Rohingya as saying.

The person also said: “But they detained us, and then charged us each 200 to 500 taka [U.S. $2.30 to $5.75] for transportation back to camp.”

When asked about the allegation, APBn spokesman Kamran Hossen said rumors about law enforcers were being spread to create instability in the camps.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) did not immediately reply to a BenarNews email request for comment.

18 detained

Elsewhere, police on Thursday reported detaining 18 Rohingya in northeastern Moulvibazar district after they allegedly entered Bangladesh illegally from Tripura, India.

The group, which included 10 children, comprised four families traveling from different places in India, Moulvibazar Sadar police station inspector Rabiul Haque said.

There are an estimated 18,000 Rohingya and asylum-seekers registered with the UNHCR in India. 

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