Bangladesh authorities have started erecting barbed-wire fences around Rohingya refugee camps to rein in illegal trafficking of the vulnerable refugees.
Other measures, including “installation of watchtower and CCTV cameras are also underway to strengthen the surveillance on the Rohingya people and the refugee camps,” according to Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal.
In recent months incidents of trafficking of Rohingya to Malaysia have significantly increased through the Bay of Bengal.
Surveillance at the camps has been boosted in keeping with instructions of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, he said.
Rohingya refugees and rights groups urged the government not to erect barbed-wire fences around the camps because that would curb the right of movement of the refugees.
“We understand that Bangladesh has concern for its national security but we are not extremists that should be kept under constant surveillance. We are genocide survivors and have taken refuge to save our lives,” Myo Thant, a refugee in the Cox’s Bazar camp, told mediapersons.
Putting wire fences may cause psychological and mentally disorders, and it is more akin to concentration camps than keeping camps secured, he added.
Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the Free Rohingya Coalition told mediapersons that fencing the camps will undo all the humanity Bangladesh has shown and turn the camps into concentration camps with barbed-wires, watchtowers and CCTV.
“These camp inhabitants were in the open-air prison of Myanmar for decades. Now they are again facing the same denial of absolutely basic freedoms in Bangladesh, the place of their refuge,” he said and implored the government to drop the plan.
At least 15 bodies of Rohingya refugees were recovered, 65 rescued and more than 40 are still missing after a trawler sank Feb. 11 in the Bay of Bengal near St. Martin’s island while illegally trying to go to Malaysia.
On the tendency of illegally moving to another country using Bangladesh sea border, Lwin said that unlike Myanmar, Bangladesh has rules of law. Criminals must be brought to justice.
“NGOs, Rohingya leaders in the camps must educate the refugees not to take risky boats to Malaysia. And, the entire community shouldn’t be punished for the crimes committing by a few people,” he added.
Earlier, The Human Rights Watch said plans for barbed wire and guard towers around Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar violate refugees’ rights to freedom of movement.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.
Since August 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingyas were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled “Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience”.
Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down while 113,000 others vandalized, it added.
Bangladesh let in more than a million Rohingyas but now the Hasina government is desperate to send them back, fearing Myanmar will never take them back.