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Arbitrary Arrests And Extortion Against Rohingya Refugees In Bangladesh

Rohingya Muslims in an unregistered refugee camp in Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (Photo: Reuters)

Andrew Day
RB News 
March 4, 2014

Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh - If one were to look, they would find consistent cases of arbitrary arrests against Rohingya refugees in either of the two state run UNCHR refugee camps in Bangladesh. The two makeshift camps named Kutupalong and Nayapara have a combined registered refugee population of about 29000. The following cases of arrests, all a means for extortion by local authorities have taken place in Nayapara refugee camp between February 20-28, 2014. 

Starting with this letter written to Rohingya Blogger of an arrest of a paralysis patient who is still held by police. The information in the letter has since been confirmed by RB News (with the exeption of the SI written about was learned to be an Assistant Sub Inspector named Zakir):

"A refugee identified as Sha Alam 55 s/o Suluma MRC#16013, Block-E, Shed#942, Room#4 Nayapara refugee camp has been arbitrarily arrested by police of Teknaf police station on 28.02.2014 at about 2.00 am. A group of police led by SI (Sub-Inspector) Hanif, Mohammad Shah Alam and Kamrul, entered the camp without the knowledge of Camp in Charge, who is the overall authority of the camp and went to refugee Sha Alam’s house and called him out of his room. After getting him out, police took him to Teknaf police station. The police arrested him to blackmail money alleging him in false case. When the information was reached to various concerned authority of UNHCR and the government, the police could not release him in exchange of money. They sent him to the Cox’s Bazar prison fabricating a false case against him as a human trafficker. The main purpose of the police was to realize toll from him alleging in a false case. But, as the guardians of the victim were unable to pay the huge amount of money demanded by the police, the guardians informed the matter to the concerned authority of UNHCR and the Camp in Charge to get assistance in his release. Then the Head of Sub-Office, UNHCR contacted to the Officer in charge of police and requested him to release the innocent arrestee. Denying his request, the OC of police has sent him to the Cox’s Bazar jail.

The refugee is a paralysis patient. He does not know what is human trafficking.

Besides this, police have arrested many refugees and released them in exchange of money. But they can not inform any concerned authority of the UNHCR and the Camp authority fearing repercussion. On the other hand, the police frequently enter the camp without the knowledge of Camp in Charge at deep night and arrest the innocent refugees from the camp and blackmail huge amounts of money alleging false cases. After taking bribes the arrestees are released. 

Refugees have to pawn ration books and gold ornaments and must borrow money from neighbors to meet the demand of police for recovering the arrestee. Now the innocent refugees are unable to stay in their room for fear of police arrest, like in Burma. Suddenly, they will enter the camp and detain innocent refugees and say, “You are human traffickers or robber”. Then the victims are compelled to give money anyway for release. Fearing they will have to bear torture of police. So if this harassment and persecution is going on against innocent refugees, how can we live here? The police have laid the trap for refugees to realize money. For the distressed and innocent refugees of Nayapara camp, we like to urge the international communities through the Rohingya Blogger to provide us protection from police harassment and oppression."

Sha Alam is still held in jail now. His opportunity to be released by bribery has passed as it was reported to concerned authorities. In other cases of arrests in this time period, they or their families managed to raise the funds needed and quietly pay the guards off in order to avoid imprisonment and torture. 

  • Sirajul Haque Father name Sharif Hossain MRC 16886 Block E/859/7 The police called him to open the door. He was harassed and was forced to pay 50000bdt
  • Mohammed Hossain Father's name Shobbir Ahmed MRC 15899 C/859/1 Forced to pay 90000bdt
  • Abdul Monaf Father name Abdul Salam MRC Z-3096 E/914/5 Forced to pay 15000bdt
  • Khairul Amin Father's name Abdul Amin MRC Z-3179 C 885/2 He was out from his home at about 11:20 AM to use a nearby toilet. He was harassed and forced to pay 5000bdt

Arbitrary arrests of the persecuted Rohingya ethnic minority in Bangladesh is a regular part of life for those who have fled from Arakan state, many of which having fled in the early 1990's. This quotation from Physicians for Human Rights in 2010 shows a mirror image of these current atrocities committed by police forces.

"Refugees report beatings, racial epithets, humiliation, and extortion once detained. With no resources, families are compelled to borrow money to pay bail or explicit bribes to Bangladeshi authorities to have their detained family members released."

This is the treatment of registered refugees in the cox's bazaar district. They live in densely populated quarters around open streams of sewerage. No laws have been written to protect them. They have no one to turn to when being wrongfully persecuted and accused by local citizens or police. 

In addition to this, there are over 200'000 Rohingya people who live in ghettos outside Kutupalong and Nayapara. They are not officially recognized as refugees. The Government of Bangladesh is state party to certain international human rights treaties that obligates them not to deport or expel any person from its territory when that person’s right to life or right to be free from torture is at risk. No part of the treaties though requires that the government has to look after them at all for food, medicine or protection. These people are quite literally starving and dying from disease. The only words from FM Dipu Moni was of the population crisis that faces Bangladesh. Recommending that the stateless Rohingya agree to voluntary refoulement. This seeming to be the loophole that the government will rely on to push back those who fled from Myanmar.

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