The government, apparently vexed with the continuous arrival of Rohingyas in Bangladesh adversely impacting demographic and socio-economic fabrics, has moved to conduct a first-ever census of undocumented the Myanmar nationals staying illegally in Bangladesh. The enumeration of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar is expected to begin in November aiming to identify them and determine their actual number and locations, according to officials. The National Strategy Paper on Myanmar Refugees and Undocumented Myanmar Nationals in Bangladesh which suggested the census said that there was a large population of three to five lakh undocumented Myanmar nationals living outside the two designated camps for refugees. They are also involved in various crimes. The Strategy Paper said that many of these Myanmar nationals had obtained illegal or forged Bangladesh passports to travel to countries in Southeast Asia and Middle East in an irregular migration and had compromised Bangladesh’s international image by getting involved in crimes and threatening law and order in those countries. Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics has already started the process for conducting the census of the undocumented Myanmar nationals and is trying to locate where the Rohingyas are staying. The working committee for conducting the census in its first meeting with census wing director of BBS Md Zahidul Haque Sardar in the chair on Tuesday reviewed the preparations and viewed that without help of local government representatives, it would be difficult to identify the Rohingyas. Representatives from Border Guard Bangladesh, Planning Commission and foreign ministry attended the first meeting held at BBS auditorium. The meeting was told that politically influential people in the coastal areas were using Rohingya refugees in illegal Yaba trade and sending people abroad by boat. The census will be conducted in six coastal and adjacent districts – Cox’s Bazar, Bandarban, Chittagong, Rangamati, Khagrachari and Patuakhali – to prepare a database with photographs and some general and socio-economic information on illegal Rohingya migrants. According to the strategy paper, after the census the listed individuals would be housed in temporary shelters in different suitable locations pending their repartition to Myanmar through regular diplomatic channel. Government moves are also under way to free the resort city of Cox’s Bazar for the tourists by shifting from there the two decades-old camps housing the Rohingya refugees to an isolated area on the offshore island of Hatiya in Noakhali. The officials said that the authorities had selected an isolated and larger area for the refugee camp in Hatiya to discourage Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya refugees from crossing into the bordering district of Cox’s Bazar separated by the Naaf River. Alarmed by growing incidence of marriage between Bangladeshis and Rohingyas, the government last year also banned such marriages as Rohingyas use the marriage certificate for citizenship and availing Bangladeshi passports. According to official statistics, some 33,000 registered Rohingya refugees (supervised by UNHCR) are now living in two camps in Cox’s Bazar. The Rohingyas fleeing persecution by Myanmar authorities began crossing into Bangladesh in 1991 putting a huge socio-economic burden on the overpopulated Bangladesh. According to the project documents, despite strict vigilance in border areas, every day on average eight to 10 Rohingyas were sneaking into Bangladesh. These illegal Rohingyas have been settling in different areas, destroying the country’s forests. They are also getting involved in crimes. A Tk 21.75 crore project, titled ‘Census of the undocumented Myanmar nationals staying in Bangladesh’, was approved at the meeting of Executive Committee of the National Economic Council. In September, last year, the cabinet approved the ‘National Strategy Paper on Myanmar Refugees and Undocumented Myanmar Nationals in Bangladesh’, aiming at ensuring enhanced coordination in the work of the government, NGOs, and international organisations in addressing the protracted problem. The Bangladesh government last year sent the copies of the strategy paper to the agencies concerned, including UNRC and UNHCR. The paper also included concerns of a three-member parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs. The standing committee observed that the number of Myanmar nationals was exceeding the number of local population in certain areas in Cox’s Bazar, particularly in Teknaf.
Source: New Age