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More than 500,000 Rohingya refugees registered in two months

Rohingya refugees in Teknaf (Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain)

By Tarek Mahmud
November 15, 2017

The newly arrived Rohingya refugees are interested in biometric registration for facilitated relief-taking and thinking of a facilitated future repatriation process

Bangladesh has so far completed the biometric registration of 512,058 Rohingya refugees who have entered Bangladesh to flee the ethnic violence carried out by the Myanmar army in Rakhine state.

The registration process, which started on September 12, is being conducted at 70 booths in seven biometric registration centres in the Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas of Cox’s Bazar.

The Press Information Department (PID) confirmed the number and said: “Rohingyas are still coming to Bangladesh from Myanmar’s Rakhine state but the influx has slowed down.”

The head of the Department of Immigration and Passport (DIP) said the biometric registration of the refugees could be completed by the end of the year.

“At this speed, all the refugees could be registered in a month,” DIP Director General Maj Gen Md Masud Rezwan said. “The registration will also help Bangladesh repatriate the displaced Rohingyas back to Myanmar.”

DIP’s Technical Engineer, squadron leader Md Arefin Ahmed, said the registration process will help the administration to identify and Rohingya who attempts to acquire a national identity card, driving licence or passport.

“We are registering the fingerprints so that the refugees can be detected easily in the future. This way, any Rohingya with ill-motives will not be able to get a Bangladeshi identity card or a passport illegally, since all data is being stored at the DIP and Election Commission data bank,” he said.

“Creating such enriched database has brought more discipline during relief distribution, too.”

The company that is providing technical support in the biometric registrations believes the process will assist in the repatriation of the refugees once the issue is resolved.

“The expectation has been raised with the example of how Germany registered the Syrian refugees to ensure each one is identified while performing any activity within Germany,” Tiger IT team deputy general manager, Rajib Chowdhury, said.

According to Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission, up to November 13 around 627,500 Rohingyas had entered Bangladesh since the latest military crackdown began in Rakhine state on August 25.

Apart from the newly-arrived Rohingyas, an estimated 500,000 of the minority ethnic group have been living in the two upazilas of Cox’s Bazar for years now, according to unofficial sources.

Authorities have found that the new Rohingya refugees at the camps are interested in biometric registration to enjoy relief facilities and to ensure the prospect of repatriation in the future.

However, the Rohingyas who have been residing in Bangladesh for many years show no interest in registering, but would rather enjoy the benefits like a Bangladeshi citizen.

DIP’s Assistant Director Tarique Salman said they are working to raise awareness among the previously arrived Rohingyas so that they are inspired to become biometrically registered.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has estimated that a further 200,000 Rohingyas are likely to arrive in Bangladesh from Myanmar in the coming weeks – bringing the total Rohingya population to over one million officially – only exacerbating an already unimaginable humanitarian crisis.

Terming the Myanmar Army’s oppression as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”, the United Nations has said that the Myanmar army and local mobs have burned all of the estates in Rakhine to the ground, after killing and raping the inhabitants.

The Buddhist-majority Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingyas as citizens, forcing them to live in squalid camps under apartheid-like conditions.

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