Rohingyas sneaking into Bangladesh from India now
The illegal entry of Rohingyas into Bangladesh from India over the past three weeks has triggered a fresh concern as the new inflow will create an additional burden for the country already hosting one million of the forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals.
Police and intelligence officials said many of the Rohingyas, who lived in different places in India, sneaked into Bangladesh with the help of brokers and some were detained by law enforcers. They were later sent to the transitional camps in Cox's Bazar.
There is no official record of the numbers of Rohingyas entering so far, but officials said some 500 of them may have entered Bangladesh from India over the last one month.
"We are heavily burdened with the Rohingyas and any sort of illegal entry is a matter of serious concern. It should be stopped immediately," said a top government official engaged in the Rohingya repatriation process in Cox's Bazar, where over one million Rohingyas live in several refugee camps.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Moment voiced similar concerns.
"Unfortunately, many Rohingyas are coming to Bangladesh from India," he told reporters, adding that he would take up the matter with his Indian counterpart.
Bangladesh has been facing episodic influxes of Rohingyas fleeing violence in Myanmar for decades, with the largest exodus from Rakhine State taking place in August 2017. They joined the 300,000 of their compatriots already there from previous waves of displacement, causing significant economic and strategic challenges for Bangladesh.
Rohingyas who entered Bangladesh illegally from India told Bangladesh law enforcers that they had to spend around 15,000 Indian rupees to cross the border, sources said.
Take the example of Selim.
In 2012, Selim went to Jammu from Maungdaw and had since been sheltered in a refugee camp with a UNHCR card along with 200-300 other Rohingya families, law enforcers said, citing Selim.
Selim claimed that recently the situation in the Jammu area became volatile. He then communicated with his sister-in-law Tomida Khatun, who lives in Kutupalong camp in Cox's Bazar.
"My sister-in-law told me that the Rohingya camp situation in Bangladesh is good and that the Bangladesh government is very kind and helpful. Then I decided to move," he said.
Selim later communicated with an Indian broker and made a deal to cross the border.
As per the deal, Selim along with his wife and two children went to Delhi from Jammu by bus on May 8. From Delhi, they came to Agartala by train, which took them 72 hours.
Around 2:00pm on May 13, they entered Feni district of Bangladesh through an opening of the wire fence of Agartala border.
An unknown broker received them and then they went to Ramu in Cox's Bazar and reached near the camp.
"After arriving here, I phoned my sister-in-law and then she came and took us inside the camp through an opening of the barbed-wire fence," he told law enforcers.
But based on a tip-off, the Armed Police Battalion took them from the camp and sent them to the office of the Camp in Charge (CiC) in the Rohingya camp.
Naimul Haque, commanding officer of Armed Police Battalion (APBn)-14 said it is difficult to say exactly how many Rohingyas entered Bangladesh from India.
"But in my camp, we have arrested some 25 Rohingyas and they were sent to the CiC office," he said.
He also said that some of the Rohingyas who came from India said they crossed the border as they have relatives here. Others cited the poor law and order situation in India and better living conditions in Bangladesh camps.
They said Rohingyas with the help of brokers first come to Kolkata by train. Then another group of brokers take the Rohingyas and then they were taken to Bangladesh's borders in Sylhet, Cumilla and Moulvibazar by train.
There, another group of brokers near the border divide them into groups of 5-6 and help them enter Bangladesh through the barbed wire at the border.
Rohingyas who have already entered Bangladesh told the law enforcement agencies that some 2,000-3,000 Rohingyas are waiting in bordering areas to trespass into Bangladesh.
Intelligence sources said many of the Rohingyas have already spread to many parts of the country.
Md Mamunur Rashid, Deputy Commissioner of Cox's Bazar, said, "It is a concern as Rohingyas are coming from India. They are now in the transit camps and the decisions about them will be taken soon after reviewing the overall situation."
According to Human Rights Watch, an estimated 40,000 Rohingyas are in India, at least 20,000 of whom are registered with the UNHCR.
Since 2016, ultranationalist Hindu groups have targeted Rohingya refugees in Jammu as part of growing attacks on Muslims in India and called for their expulsion from the country.
After October 2018, the Indian government deported 12 Rohingyas to Myanmar, claiming that they left voluntarily. However, the government denied repeated requests by the UNHCR to gain access to them to independently assess whether the decision was voluntary.