Spike in kidnapping, extortion in Rohingya refugee camps creates panic


Although Bangladeshi authorities say they have arrested scores of criminals, local media reports 100 kidnapping incidents in 2021

By Md. Kamruzzaman

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) – The increasing incidents of kidnappings reported in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh over the past year has sent shockwaves among the homeless persecuted people.

Local media reports quoting law enforcement agencies have said that more than 100 cases of kidnappings have been reported over the past year in the world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh’s southern city of Cox’s Bazar.

“Whenever night comes, we stay inside our tents and hardly go out as we are scared of kidnappers. Even our women fear to go out for natural calls at night,” Mohammad Hamidullah, a Rohingya who is living in the camp, told Anadolu Agency.

Last year in December, Bangladesh police exhumed a decomposed dead body of a Rohingya identified as Syed Amin, 40, from an abandoned house inside a camp. He was kidnapped 11 months ago and the captors had demanded 80,000 Bangladeshi takas ($950) from his family.

On Jan. 3, police rescued three Rohingya youths kidnapped from a playground by some unidentified miscreants, according to an official statement.

Currently, three police battalions are securing 34 refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, hosting nearly 1.2 million Rohingya Muslims, who were forced to leave their homes following repeated brutal military clampdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine State since 2017.

Hamidullah alleged that miscreants and some criminal gangs are active inside camps and have been recruiting Rohingya youths to carry out criminal activities.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Nur Khan Liton, a human rights activist, said that at least four armed groups active in the Rohingya camps are fighting each other to establish supremacy.

“Members of so-called Rohingya insurgent group, Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), and at least three other armed groups, with own political motives, very often carry out kidnappings and other crimes using the congested environment as a shield,” said Liton.

– Limits to conduct raids

He said due to the large number of people inhabiting the camp, the Bangladeshi security forces couldn’t conduct raids and operations all the time.

“They (Rohingya) have no future in Bangladesh while peaceful and dignified repatriation is seemingly far away due to deteriorating political situation in Myanmar, pushing them to an easy prey of criminal gangs or human traffickers,” he said.

He claimed that over the past four years, nearly 100 Rohingya have been victims of extrajudicial killings at the hand of the Bangladeshi law enforcers while 20 are reported missing.

Referring to the incidents of human trafficking, Liton said the persecuted community’s desire to migrate to a third country makes them easy prey for traffickers.

“Though several hundred Rohingya have died in the sea in incidents of the boat capsizing, some 1,000 of them have been able to migrate to the countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand in the last couple of years,” said the human rights activist.

According to a 2020 report of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 2,413 Rohingya refugees have through the risky sea routes in 2020 to reach a third country from Bangladesh’s mainland refugee camps and of the 218 died or went missing during the journey.

– Bangladeshi authorities restore order

Bangladesh security agencies, however, claim that they have restored order in the refugee camps and the situation is now better.

“Only my battalion has arrested at least 68 listed criminals in the camps in the last few months,” Shihab Kaisar Khan, commander of Armed Police Battalion (APBn), told Anadolu Agency.

Another police official Naimul Haque said his force has arrested 700 criminals, who were active in the camp since 2019.

“We, three battalions, have extended our vigilance in the camps especially after the murder of popular Rohingya leader Mohib Ullah and the other six in one month last year. We are confident that there is no scope of terrorist acts or organized crimes now,” he said.


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