As drugs and guns pour in, Rohingya camps see crime rise
Armed men and women, hitherto ranged, begin to emerge from the shadows, while the drugs are consumed in full view.
The locals are used to such scenes and even a murder would hardly disturb them.
The murder of Mohammad Mohib Ullah, a prominent community leader who campaigned for the safe repatriation of the Rohingya, has, however, put the issue of security and crimes in the camps at the center of attention, both in the country and ‘abroad.
A group of unidentified gunmen killed him in Lombashiya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhiya on September 28.
Known as Master Mohib Ullah, the Rohingya leader, who was almost 40, was the president of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights.
Recent data on crimes in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, the world’s largest settlements, point to an escalation in criminal activity.
The camps, located in remote areas of Cox’s Bazar, are victims of crimes ranging from family feuds to theft, kidnapping, human trafficking and rape. Even attacks on the police are quite common there, while the use of weapons and drugs remains the same as before.
On Monday, the Armed Police Battalion (APBn) arrested five Rohingya men carrying sharp weapons from Balukhali Rohingya refugee camp in Ukhiya.
Police say they conduct regular raids on the camps to recover illicit materials and maintain law and order.
“The residents of the camp are not complaining about the security there,” said Rafiqul Islam, Cox’s Bazar additional police superintendent.
Complaints are regularly filed for domestic violence, rape as well as for the use and possession of weapons and drugs in the camps, he said.
âThe camps are small but densely populated. There are conflicts between the inhabitants. Most of the time, cases are filed under existing laws that cover these incidents. “
Police arrest criminals and send them to court in accordance with the rule of law, he said. âIt’s an ongoing process. In addition, members of the armed police battalion are always on hand to maintain security in the camps. “
Since 2017, more than 1.1 million Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the face of persecution and brutal military repression in Rakhine, Myanmar.
The UN has described the Burmese army’s crackdown on the Rohingya as a “classic example of ethnic cleansing”, while others have accused the country of committing genocide against the Muslim minority group.
Despite the efforts of law enforcement, the situation in the refugee camps will deteriorate further as the repatriation process is delayed, warned Professor Wakar Uddin, head of the Arakan Rohingya Union, an organization working for the safe repatriation of the Rohingya.
âThe Burmese army is well aware of this and has therefore opted for a strategy aimed at delaying the repatriation process. “
Upon returning from the United Nations General Assembly last month, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said she had highlighted the environmental damage caused by the high density of Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar to world leaders.
BLAME THE VICTIM
Criminal activity in the Rohingya camps is not as widespread as it is claimed, according to Nur Khan, a human rights activist working with the Rohingya.
âIn the camps, around 13 to 14 people live crammed into a small place. Most of them are adolescents and young people and may have conflicts with each other, âhe said.
âThe statistics released represent nothing more than the blame of the victims. “
âWe must remember that Bangladesh has shown the strongest example of humanity in providing shelter to the Rohingya. Policy makers should keep this in mind before commenting on the matter. “
Crime statistics provided by different sources indicate that the situation in the Rohingya camps is not much different from the rest of the country, Khan said.
âIf you calculate the ratio of criminals among 1.4 million people, you will see that the results of the Rohingya camps are similar to those of any other part of Bangladesh.
âWe have such a large population of Rohingya living in overcrowded camps. They have no access to education or entertainment. In addition, the majority of the Rohingya population is made up of adolescents and young people. It is obvious that they will be more prone to conflicts and confrontations. “
Turning to the issue of cross-border drug trafficking, Khan said there was nothing new in this part of the country. Even representatives of the public have been repeatedly accused of running drug companies, he said. Drug traffickers use the Rohingya and the camps in different ways to promote their business interests.
âLocal criminals tend to be involved in crimes like assaults, kidnappings and drug use,â he said.
The human rights activist, however, mentioned that groups such as Harakah al Yaqin or ARSA, RSO and Islami Mahaz are said to be active inside the camps.
“In addition, people complain about the Munna group, the Hakim Robbery group and other criminal groups committing crimes like drug trafficking, theft, kidnapping, extortion. [in the camps]. “
1,366 CASES IN FOUR YEARS
No less than 23 Rohingya camps come under the jurisdiction of the Ukhiya police and 11 fall under the Teknaf police.
At least 1,366 cases have been filed with these two police stations, naming 2,348 Rohingya from August 25, 2017 to September 30, 2021. Police arrested 1,747 Rohingya suspects.
The cases focus on 10 types of crimes, including possession of weapons and drugs, rape, murder, robbery, human trafficking, disregard of the law on foreigners and attacks on the police. .
Police recorded 706 drug-related charges, making it the most common crime in the camps. Drug cases have increased markedly in the camps since 2017.
Police said at least 22 drug cases were filed against Rohingya suspects in the last four months of 2017. This figure rose to 95 in 2018, an average of 8 cases per month.
In 2019, it was 152, an average of 13 per month. It skyrocketed to 256 in 2020, and by August 2021, at least 184 drug-related cases had been filed, for a monthly average of 23.
The number of gun-related cases has also increased, with law enforcement collecting more weapons from the camps, police said.
Commenting on the matter last week, Home Secretary Asaduzzaman Khan said weapons were being supplied to the Rohingya from Myanmar in an attempt to stoke tensions in the camps. He also referred to the infighting between different Rohingya groups to claim dominance over these weapons.
According to police data, 13 weapons cases against the Rohingyas were filed with the Teknaf and Ukhiya police in 2018. The number rose to 17 the following year and rose to 27 in 2020. Au in total, 13 arms cases were filed up to September 2021..
Police have recovered 17 pistols, 44 LG pistols, 53 rifles, 4 pipe pistols and a large number of sharp weapons over the past nine months.
Clashes and killings have also become common in the camps over the past four years.
Up to 79 cases have been filed with the police in Teknaf and Ukhiya for the killings of 83 Rohingyas from August 25, 2017 to September 30, 2021. In addition, 24 Rohingyas were killed in “shootings” with different agencies in charge. law enforcement.
More than 100 Rohingya have been killed in shootings in other Upazilas, police say.
At least 109 of the 279 people killed in “shootings” with law enforcement during anti-drug raids in Cox’s Bazar were Rohingya, according to local reporters. Among them, three were women.
When bdnews24.com tried to speak to residents of Lombashiya Rohingya camp in Ukhiya on October 1-2, many of them were quite reluctant to respond. The situation was tense after the murder of Mohib Ullah.
Camp residents are used to seeing people moving around with guns at night, said Ansarullah, a store owner. Many of these armed people identify themselves as ‘Harakah al Yaqin’ [Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA)] members.
In addition, some local groups extort Rohingya who run small businesses inside the camps or earn income by any other means, he said.
Police reported more than 20 organized criminal groups inside the camp. The government, however, has always denied the existence of ARSA there.
[Written in English by Sabrina Karim Murshed and edited by Turaj Ahmad]