Labour ministers in government seats as UK parliament returns

DHAKA: A growing number of Rohingya women in Bangladesh are being targeted by traffickers who offer them an escape from worsening conditions in the world’s largest refugee camp.

Nearly one million Rohingya people live in squalid conditions in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, which Amnesty International described as “inhumane” last year. The refugees are not allowed to leave the enclosure and are trapped inside with limited food, water and electricity.

Thousands of people have tried to escape the overcrowded camp in Bangladesh in recent years, hoping to seek a better life elsewhere, often with the help of human trafficking networks.

“Human trafficking is undoubtedly a problem here. From the government side, we are trying to fight this,” Mohammad Mizanur Rahman, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, told Arab News on Tuesday.

“In many cases, women and children are trafficked, and it stems from absolute frustration and innocent situations.

About 569 Rohingya — out of nearly 4,500 — died or went missing in 2023 while trying to move to another country via deadly sea crossings, often on rickety boats, the highest number in nine years, according to the UN refugee agency.

Many were taken to Malaysia and Indonesia, and Jakarta blames human traffickers for the growing number of Rohingya who entered the country by boat at the end of last year.

Rahman said many of the women take the dangerous sea voyages “with the aim of marrying a Rohingya man” who may have moved to a country in Southeast Asia.

He said: “Most of the Rohingya living in Malaysia are men. They marry Rohingya girls living in the camps through (contact via) mobile phones. Later, the man sends money to bring the woman to Malaysia.

In such cases, the Rohingya involved would “make contact with human traffickers” to circumvent the lack of legal travel documents.

Rahman added: “In this process, sometimes they become successful and sometimes they end up in abusive situations.” Sometimes they die by drowning in the sea.”

The Muslim-majority Rohingya people — dubbed the “world’s most persecuted minority” by the UN — have faced decades of persecution in Myanmar.

More than 730,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh in 2017 after a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar military, which the UN said amounted to genocide.

Rohingya in Bangladesh have faced restrictions on movement and work in the years since, forcing them to stand still amid increasing uncertainty about their future, dwindling international aid and feeble attempts at dignified repatriation.

Dhaka-based migration expert Asif Munir told Arab News: “There is no permanent solution in sight to the camp-life situation; this caused frustration among the camp population.

“The Rohingya population is vulnerable and also densely populated. As for the network of human traffickers, they can move more freely and somehow exploit women who are already in a vulnerable state in the camps.”

Even the presence of law enforcement officers is not enough to keep up with the Rohingya population, Munir said, as authorities also have to deal with security incidents involving armed groups in and around the refugee camp.

For many Rohingya women, life in Cox’s Bazar is full of challenges. Many of them were exploited by local Bangladeshi men with promises of marriage or lured into commercial sex work.

Munir added: “In a way, they at least feel that if they could somehow go to Malaysia, they would have a better life, even if it’s not exactly legal.”

“Concerns and smugglers are ready to provide a service in exchange for money.” And for women who feel they are up against the wall, this is an option.”

Leave a Comment