Rohingyas, mostly women and girls, are being trained and given fake documents by suspected human traffickers to manage Bangladeshi passport for sending them abroad.
Department of Immigration and Passport officials expressed concern saying that managing Bangladesh passport by people other than Bangladeshis posed risks to national security.
Home ministry’s security services division secretary Shahiduzzaman told New Age on Monday that they received a number of complaints which were now under investigation. ‘Stern action will be taken if any of our officials is found involved in it,’ he said.
‘We received two complaints from the intelligence agencies. Apart from those, Special Branch is also examining how Rohingyas got passports,’ the secretary said, adding, ‘passports are issued on SB clearance and we are also examining whether there is a problem in their end.’
The police continued investigations into a number of cases on allegations of involvement of Bangladeshis in training up Rohingya teenagers or women to pretend as Bangladeshis while submitting passport applications and in forging required documents, including birth registration certificate.
The police headquarters could not say how many Rohingyas were arrested while attempting to obtain Bangladeshi passport.
Law enforcement and intelligence agencies said that they arrested 15 Rohingyas in Dhaka, Rajshahi and Chuadanga in the past two years while they tried to go abroad and rescued 24 others from a hideout in Dhaka during their training.
The Department of Immigrations and Passport in a letter on May 19 asked its officials across the country to document cases of Rohingyas and to take legal actions. Department officials said that they were trying to strictly examine applications for passports but facing difficulties when Rohingyas were trained up.
On May 22, Sabuya Akhter, 20, submitted application to the regional passport office at Agargaon showing her present address at Savar in Dhaka and permanent address at Nandigram in Bogura.
During initial screening, assistant director Mehedi Hasan asked her to sing national anthem, recite Bangla poems and name state dignitaries, among others, and she did well. She was, however, found nervous during collection of biometric information, causing doubt.
She was interrogated again. ‘She replied all of our questions but kept mum when I asked how you came from Savar,’ said Mehedi adding, ‘finally she admitted that she was a Rohingya.’
Gazipur lawyer Shahnaj Parvin notarised the application and certified that she was familiar to Sabuya for six years.
Sabuya also submitted a birth certificate issued by Dhaka North City Corporation zone 4 on May 12.
Sher-e-Bangla Nagor police station inspector (investigation) Abul Kalam Azad said that Sabuya and Shahnaj were arrested and sent to jail in a case filed by the department official.
Shahnaj used to take Tk 300 for notarising the documents, he said.
He said they arrested four more Rohingya women on similar charges in the past seven months.
Rohingya women Fatema alias Romana, wife of Selim and Parveen alias Yesmin, wife of Arman of Ukhiya camp and three others — Helal Chowdhury, Al Mamun and Sagor Ahmed — were arrested at Durgapur upazila in Rajshahi early Sunday when the three men were trying to send the two Rohingya women to Malaysia with Bangladeshi passports.
Durgapur police station officer-in-charge Abdul Motaleb said that Fatema and Perveen collected Bangladeshi passports from Rajshahi regional passport office and were trying to go to Malaysia to their husbands.
On July 6, 2018, five Rohingya youths were detained at Darshana border checkpoint in Chuadanga when they were trying to go to India with Bangladeshi passports.
According to police, Muhammad Hares, 22, obtained his passport from Feni regional office on February 20, 2018. He obtained visas of India and Vietnam. Muhammad Amin, 24, Muhammad Ayas, 25, and Muhammad Sadek, 23, obtained passports from Cumilla regional passport office on May 16, May 29 and May 29 in 2018 respectively.
Muhammad Sakar, 22, used an address of Krishnapur in Darshana of Chuadanga to get his passport issued from Cumilla.
On May 25, 2019, the police arrested Rohingya women Jamila Begum, 58, and Jobeda Khatun, 63, of Kutupalong camp at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport moments before they were about to board a Kuwait Airlines flight for Saudi Arabia using Bangladeshi passports.
Jamila managed to get the passport using an address in Chattogram while Jobeda got hers with an address in Narayanganj.
Earlier on March 30, Armed Police Battalion held four Rohingyas — Anwar, 30, Rokeya, 19, Marijan, 23, and Amena Begum, 26, — at Dhaka airport just before they were about board a plane bound for Indonesia with Bangladesh passports.
Following the latest influx that began on August 25, 2017, the government took many decisions including of stopping the issuance of birth certificate in Cox’s Bazar but the officials said that Rohingyas were collecting birth certificate from different districts to get Bangladesh passport.
Officials in Cox’s Bazar said that apart from forged documents, Rohingyas were being trained up by Bangladeshi families there to pretend to be Bangladeshis.
The Cox’s Bazar passport office withheld over 280 applications since August 2017 on suspicion.
The police investigators said that they found Bangladeshi brokers imparting training to the Rohingya girls bringing them to Dhaka from Cox’s Bazar camps.
On May 10, the Detective Branch of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police detained 24 Rohingya suspects from Khilkhet and seized 54 Bangladeshi passports.
Detective Branch deputy commissioner Mokhlesur Rahman said that they had arrested three, including a couple, at Ramu in Cox’s Bazar and five others could escape the arrest.
He said that detained Aiyub Mustakim made his statement before a metropolitan magistrate detailing how he got involved in arranging Rohingyas to send them to the abroad and revealed that over 300 Rohingyas could manage to go to abroad with Bangladeshi passports.
Four of the 54 passports were issued by the Cox’s Bazar regional passport office. Its assistant director Abu Nayeem Masum said that three passports were issued before he had joined the office while he issued the other based on police clearance.
A home ministry official said that the passport department collected bio-metric data of 11,18,578 Rohingyas who entered Bangladesh fleeing violence and persecution back in their homeland Rakhine in Myanmar.
The official, however, said that the collected Rohingya data could not be shared with the national identification database to separate individual identities.
Bangladesh authorities estimated that 7, 38,805 Rohingyas had entered Bangladesh since August 25, 2017.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Country