03 Jun
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CRDI: Protect refugees

Bangladesh: Protect Refugees, End Plan to Erect Fences Around Rohingya Refugee Camps

(Toronto, Canada, June 3, 2019) Citing a rise in violence, trafficking, and other illegal activities, the Bangladeshi authorities are reportedly putting a new 16-point recommendation plan in place with the aim of ending illicit markets which include cellphone SIM cards traded among Rohingyas and the local host community, and the establishment of light posts, CCTV cameras, and barbed wire fences surrounding parts of the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar District, Bangladesh.

The Government Bangladesh should halt its plans to erect fencing around the Rohingya refugee camps which would restrict freedom of movement, said CRDI today.

CRDI acknowledges that security for both Rohingya and the local community is an important issue, but the fundamental human rights of refugees should not be infringed upon in the name of safety. For example, communication with the outside world is vital to many refugees to stay connected with their remaining families in Myanmar. Without providing alternative ways to register SIM cards [refugees are currently barred from legally registering SIM card due to lack of IDs], threatening to ban unregistered SIM cards would mean cutting of Rohingya from family members in the diaspora and back inside Myanmar.

“The majority of Rohingya are grateful to be in Bangladesh, and we acknowledge the strain that the refugee crisis is putting on the host community. We are peaceful people and we reject violence and crime,” said Saifullah Muhammad, a co-founder of CRDI. “But as a basic rule, security measures which involve the very minimum of restrictions of refugee human rights should always be the first to be considered.”

Today there are more than one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in Bangladesh’s sprawling, overcrowded refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.

As one Rohingya refugee in the camps told CRDI, “Barbed wire fence is unacceptable. It’s another copy paste from [what] the Myanmar government did in Arakan.”

Rohingya refugees and their wider diaspora families point out that the authority’s recommendations present a one-dimensional narrative of the complicated dynamics within the camp. The emphasis on surveillance and physical blockades as solutions to the crimes are troubling to the Rohingya refugees.

As another Rohingya refugee told CRDI, “It is hard to deny similar things will not be happening anywhere with such sub-human conditions…It is not due to electricity only [that crime is happening] but lack of access to education and lack of income-generating opportunities.”

The lack of access to formal education and the inability to work legally are sources of frustration and desperation for Rohingya refugees, many of them having lived there for their entire lives, and for some, more than one generation. CRDI call for the Bangladesh government to provide formal education and access to livelihoods in the camps.

As the problems of the camps are multi-faceted, the prevention of trafficking requires a multi-pronged approach, such as alternative income generating activities, education, and access to livelihoods.

“Bangladesh should halt its plans to put in place fencing. Fencing will do little to stop endemic and systemic problem such as trafficking,” Saifullah Muhammad.

For more information, please contact:

Yuriko Cowper-Smith – yuriko@rohingya.ca

Saifullah Muhammad – 1 519-588-7747

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