Monika Hossain (18), Senoara Begum (26) and Arefa (38) – have been arrested for what would be the most recent attempt by Rohingyas to emigrate from Bangladesh using forged passports.
Mohammad Omar Faruk (31) and Mohammad Afsar Uddin (35) are suspected of brokering their travel plans. The Rohingyas were trying to get permanent residency in Saudi Arabia after performing the holy Umra there.
Police arrested the three Rohingyas on May 21 from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, because they acted suspicious. They were about to board their flight with two Bangladeshis at the time of the arrest.
Police filed a case against them at the Airport Police Station under the Human Trafficking Act and the Passport Act the same day.
According to the case statement, the accused Monika left the Rohingya camp violating camp regulations, and also made a passport as a resident of Keraniganj, using fake documents. Of the other two accused, Senoara made her passport from Narail district and Arefa made her passport from Magura district.
The brokers, Omar and Afsar, are from Chittagong.
Seeking anonymity, an additional SP for immigration told The Business Standard, “We are trying to prevent the emigration of Rohingyas from our country, and if we suspect anyone of crossing the line we take action immediately as per our law.”
“The other departments concerned with immigration should also stay alert about trafficking. Otherwise police alone will not be able to prevent human-trafficking,” he added.
According to data from police sources, 76 cases were filed against Rohingyas in 2017. But this year, as of August 25, the number of cases had already risen to 187. In total, around 471 cases have been filed against 1,088 Rohingyas since 2017.
Advocate Fahmida Alam Rinki of the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers' Association (BNWLA), who provides legal support for human-trafficking victims, said that some Bangladeshi brokers assure their clients of reliable service and a ticket to a certain country. But later they cheat them by trafficking them to another country. So the concerned government sector has to adopt strict measures to prevent such a crime.
She also added that, not just Rohingyas, but Bangladeshi women are also trafficked by brokers to foreign countries, where they are physically and sexually abused.
The US State Department Report 2019, published on June 20, says that traffickers sometimes transport Rohingya girls within Bangladesh to Chittagong and to Dhaka, and transnationally to Kathmandu and Kolkata for sex trafficking; some traffickers “trade” these girls over the internet.
Rohingya traffickers sneak Rohingya women and girls out of refugee camps for sex. Before abducting the Rohingya women and girls, the traffickers lure them into traps with false job offers and marriage proposals.
Sometimes traffickers force the Rohingya women and girls into sexual exploitation. Local criminal networks take Rohingya women from refugee camps at night, exploit them sexually, and bring them back to the camps during the day.
The report also cites allegations by international organisations pointed at border guards, military and police officials of facilitating the trafficking of Rohingyas in exchange for bribes among other things. Rohingya girls and boys are recruited from refugee camps to work as storekeepers, fishermen, rickshaw pullers, and domestic workers in Bangladesh. Some Bangladeshi fishermen use debt-based coercion to exploit Rohingya men, who take shelter on the fishermen’s land. Some Rohingya men who fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar decades ago have been trapped in this kind of forced labour for almost 20 years.
The stateless status and inability of Rohingya to receive formal schooling or work legally increases their vulnerability to human trafficking. Multiple NGOs and humanitarian officials have noted that these restrictions have increased forced labour and sex trafficking of Rohingyas over the past year. Bangladeshis and foreigners create demand for child sex tourism, including exploitation of Rohingya girls near Cox’s Bazar.
The US State Department Report 2019 said that the Bangladesh government identified 419 potential trafficking victims, including 155 adult males, 172 adult females, and 92 children, during its report period. During the same period, it reported that the Bangladesh government recorded 592 criminal-cases involving 1,324 suspects under the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act (PSHTA), a decrease from 778 cases recorded during the previous reporting period.