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Rohingya refugee arrested in Bangladesh, activists concerned

Negligence and desperation driving refugees to crime, they say
Rohingya refugee arrested in Bangladesh, activists concerned

Rohingya refugees at Kutupalong camp in Cox's Bazar district hold a placard with their demands July 10. (Photo Courtesy of UNHCR in Bangladesh)

Published: July 13, 2017 09:40 AM GMT
Updated: July 13, 2017 09:48 AM GMT

The arrest of a Rohingya refugee for murder and drug trafficking in Bangladesh has alarmed activists who fear negligence and desperation might be driving refugees to crime.

Dost Mohammad, 32, a resident of Nayapara refugee camp in Cox's Bazar district was arrested on July 9.

"He faces various charges including murder, arms and drugs trafficking, fighting inside the camp, abduction and human trafficking. He is among dozens of Rohingyas arrested on various charges in recent times," Mainuddin, officer in-charge of Teknaf police station told ucanews.com.

The officer said Mohammad was arrested with firearms, ammunition and a large cache of drugs after a raid in the camp.

Shamshul Alam, 45, a father of five living in the camp since it was set by UN Refugee Agency in 1992, described Mohammad as a "notorious man."

"Dost and his colleagues are troublemakers and they would quarrel with other residents. His father lives in Saudi Arabia and his sister in Australia, and they send him money that he used for illegal activities," Alam told ucanews.com.

Dost was part of a drug trafficking gang of Bangladeshi and Myanmar nationals, mostly trafficking "yaba" (methamphetamine), Alam said.

"I don't know if he was involved in murder but I'm sure he was a drug trafficker. He has no right to make our lives worse, so refugees want him and others to be punished," he said.

James Gomes, regional director of Caritas Chittagong, expressed concern over the arrest of refugees.

"Time to time local media have reported Rohingya committing crimes including drugs and arms trafficking and using Bangladeshi passports to go abroad. Recently, we have heard Rohingya getting involved in militancy. It is a sad and worrying development, which will surely have a negative impact on the whole community," Gomes told ucanews.com.

Lack of education, employment and basic supplies might be leading refugees to desperation, he said.

"It is true that lack of alternatives is fueling the growth of criminal elements among them. The government and aid groups need to take the matter seriously and do what is necessary to keep them away from crime," Gomes added.

Two official camps in Nayapara and Kutuplaong house about 32,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled their home in Rakhine State of Myanmar to escape persecution by majority Buddhists and Myanmar security forces since the 1990s.

Bangladesh says up to half a million Rohingya live in squalor and makeshift settlements that have sprung up near official camps in Cox's Bazar just across the Myanmar border.

About 74,000 people have fled since Oct. 9 following a deadly crackdown by the Myanmar military in response to a militant attack and the killing of nine border police there.  

In 2015, Bangladesh faced much criticism for its plan to relocate refugees to Thengar Char, a barren, flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal. However, the government this year ordered preliminary construction of proper shelters for the refugees at the site.

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