Bangladesh res­cues 'ab­ducted' Malaysia-bound refugees

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

Bangladesh po­lice have stopped 43 Ro­hingya refugees from be­ing smug­gled to Malaysia by boat with a dozen women claim­ing they were ab­ducted by traf­fick­ers, of­fi­cials said Thurs­day.

Act­ing on tip-offs, po­lice found the refugees at two sep­a­rate places in the south­east­ern bor­der district of Cox's Bazar, rais­ing the num­ber of Ro­hingya be­ing res­cued from the traf­fick­ers to more than 100 in less than a week.

About 740,000 of the Mus­lim mi­nor­ity fled Myan­mar for Bangladesh af­ter a mil­i­tary crack­down in Au­gust 2017.

They have joined another 300,000 Ro­hingya who have al­ready been liv­ing in over­crowded camps in Cox's Bazar fol­low­ing pre­vi­ous bouts of vi­o­lence.

Of­fi­cials fear many may end up be­ing ex­ploited by an in­ter­na­tion­ally or­gan­ised hu­man smug­gling racket who have pre­vi­ously sent thou­sands of Ro­hingya to Malaysia by boats un­til Bangladesh launched a crack­down in 2015 fol­low­ing the dis­cov­ery of mass graves of refugees in Thai­land.

Rapid Ac­tion Bat­tal­ion, an elite po­lice unit, said they res­cued 12 women -- mostly in their 20s -- from a res­i­den­tial room in Cox's Bazar city early Thurs­day morn­ing and ar­rested two al­leged traf­fick­ers for "ab­duct­ing" them.

"The young women from the refugee camps were lured by the traf­fick­ers. They were promised they

About 740,000 of the Mus­lim mi­nor­ity fled Myan­mar for Bangladesh af­ter a mil­i­tary crack­down in Au­gust 2017.

would be sent to Malaysia. They were then brought to Cox's Bazar and kept in a house," RAB spokesman Mashkur Rah­man told AFP.

Rah­man said they were treat­ing it as a case of ab­duc­tion af­ter the women claimed they were con­fined in a room with­out con­sent. In another drive late Wed­nes­day, Cox's Bazar po­lice res­cued another 31 Ro­hingya from the south­ern is­land of Ma­heshkhali, some 110 kilo­me­tres (70 miles) away from the over­crowded Ku­tu­pa­long refugee camp.

Lo­cal po­lice chief Provash Chan­dra said the 14 women, 11 men and six chil­dren were hid­ing in a coastal for­est at Ma­h­eskhali wait­ing to board a Malaysian-bound boat.

"They paid some 20,000 taka ($240) each to the traf­fick­ers for the jour­ney," he said.

He said they ar­rested a woman traf­ficker and were "search­ing for oth­ers".

- Dan­ger­ous sign An

an­a­lyst said the lat­est dis­cov­ery of Malaysia-bound Ro­hingya was a "dan­ger­ous" sign and shows the des­per­a­tion at more than 30 refugee camps where the Ro­hingya live in bam­boo and tar­pau­lin made shanties in squalid con­di­tions.

"It is very nat­u­ral for the des­per­ate refugees to at­tempt the risk to search for a bet­ter fu­ture," Tas­neem Sid­diqui, who heads a Bangladesh­i think tank on mi­gra­tion is­sues, told AFP.

"They know the way is full of ob­sta­cles, yet many think this is their only way out," she said.

Au­thor­i­ties fear that more Ro­hingya will try to take boats to Malaysia while the Bay of Ben­gal re­mains calm be­fore the ar­rival of mon­soons at the end of March.

Pe­ri­od­i­cally, Ro­hingya refugees try to leave Bangladesh by boat. Photo: EPA

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