Shahina Akter, a housewife from Nolbonia, Ukhiya, works as a community volunteer for Brac in one of the Rohingya refugee camps in Teknaf.
She said the refugee response programmes undertaken in the camps by the NGOs have created a golden opportunity for local youth.
"We are getting jobs in the NGOs. This helps us to contribute to our families," Shahina told The Business Standard.
Kuddus, a day labourer from Purba Ratanpur of Ukhiya, used to earn Tk500 a day just a few years ago. These days, he usually spends agonising hours waiting to get hired by a prospective employer.
"They have taken our jobs," Kuddus lamented. "The refugees from the Rohingya camps sell their labour at Tk350 a day. Who will hire us at a higher price?" said he.
Kuddus and Shahina represent two ends of a spectrum of the impact of Rohingya influx on the local community of Cox's Bazar district, especially in Teknaf and Ukhiya.
The presence of a large number of international organisations and local NGOs trying to house, feed and protect the Rohingya community has clearly created an opportunity for the employment of locals at various levels.
At the same time, low-income people like Kuddus, especially in the areas surrounding the camps, allege the Rohingyas are managing to step out of camps and offer their services as day labourers at much lower rates than the locals. Resentment towards Rohingyas in people like Kuddus is palpable.
Opportunities for local people
Following the most recent cycle of violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state in August 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingyas sought refuge in Cox's Bazar, with their population in Bangladesh eventually rising to about a million.
Rohingyas now outnumber the local population by 2 to 1 in Ukhia and Teknaf upazilas where they are camped.
While this has given rise to many problems and raised dissatisfaction among the local host communities, it has created opportunities for them as well.
The latest influx of Rohingyas has expanded opportunities for a wide range of aid jobs in Cox's Bazar, where the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has hired about 500 Bangladeshis in the past three years.
Thousands of others have also found new jobs with other international and national aid agencies.
Shahina received training on bamboo crafting under the livelihood support programme jointly organised by the World Food Programme (WFP) and Resource Integration Centre (RIC), a local NGO.
Under the programme, trainees like Shahina are provided with a one-time grant of Tk15,000 to revitalise the business and monthly support of Tk1,050 to ensure nutrition for their families.
Barely a hundred metres away from Jamtoli Bazar, Ukhiya, an 18-year-old Abdullah sells bamboo, a prime construction material for the shelters in the camps.
"My father has a small sea-going fishing boat. Perhaps I would have become a fisherman myself, but as demand for bamboo spiked due to the arrival of the refugees, I decided to come into the bamboo trade instead," Abdullah said.
The young man sells bamboos worth Tk2,000-3,000 every day.
A WFP survey found that the number of working members of the host community has increased two years after the Rohingya influx.
The monthly income of households in Ukhiya and Teknaf has increased between 20-30 percent for agricultural and non-agricultural daily wage labourers, and up to 40 percent for monthly salaried workers, according to the survey.
The WFP implements a multi-year poverty-reduction intervention, targeting about 40 percent of the population in Ukhiya and Teknaf.
This intervention injects roughly $10 million annually through cash grants and business capital to set up micro-entrepreneurial ventures.
The Joint Response Plan 2020 also said the Rohingya refugee response has led to an increase in employment opportunities, with approximately 25,000 people directly employed in it. Of these, 90 percent are Bangladeshi, and 66 percent of the personnel engaged in the humanitarian operation are from the local community.
However, discontent among the local people at the continued presence of Rohingyas is growing day by day despite some of the opportunities created by their influx. Many locals are convinced the refugee influx has severely impacted their livelihoods and job opportunities.
Although the refugees from the camps are not allowed to do any work outside of the camp, local people alleged this restriction is hardly there in practice.
"Every day Rohingyas come out of the camps, sometimes by managing police, and stand in the bazaar to get hired. Because of them, we are not getting work," Kuddus told The Business Standard.
Day labourers like Kuddus say they are not getting jobs as prospective employers find it lucrative to hire the cheap labour of Rohingyas.
Mohammad Ilias of Boroitola area near Pholiar Para, Ukhiya, cultivates two paddy crops a year on his one-acre land. Since 2018, he has been hiring Rohingya men for harvesting paddy.
"The daily wage for a Rohingya worker is a midday meal and a maximum of Tk350. On the other hand, a Bengali worker charges a meal and at least Tk500," said Ilias.
"It's better for me, financially, to hire Rohingya men," he said.
Ukhiya Upazila Parishad chairman Hamidul Huque Chowdhury admitted that Rohingya people often trespass beyond the boundaries of their camps to take advantage of informal jobs.
"Because of that, poor Bengali day labourers are aggrieved at the Rohingya workers' presence in the job market," he told The Business Standard.
Although such allegations are widespread, there is not a lot of evidence to suggest that the reality of Rohingyas leaving the camps to work in the local economy is heavily prevalent.