The disaster management and relief ministry has given the Bangladesh Army the responsibility to install barbed-wire fences around the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar where over a million displaced Myanmar nationals have been living for over two years.
State minister for the ministry Md Enamur Rahman said on Friday that they formally asked the army last week to fence the camps in order to separate the host population and the displaced community.
The government wants to stop the uninterrupted flow of drugs into the camps and prevent Rohingya people from committing crimes, including murder, he said.
A senior government official said that a Tk 209-crore budget was approved for fencing the camps in the Ukhia and Teknaf upazilas of Cox’s Bazar following an instruction from the prime minister’s office.
The official said that the budget fund was yet to be released, delaying the work although the installation of fences was already launched with money from the existing development fund of the 10th Infantry Division in Ramu of Cox’s Bazar.
Ukhia upazila nirbahi officer Md Nikaruzzaman Chowdhury said that the fence work had been started by the army in Maynarghuna three weeks ago.
He said in separate programmes that the army officials concerned sought an immediate disbursement of the fund for the job.
In April 2019, the police made a set of recommendations to prevent criminal activities involving Rohingyas, including setting up of police camps, watchtowers and barbed-wire fences around their camps so that the movement of criminals between camps and adjacent hills after they committed crimes could be prevented.
At the end of November 2019, chief of army staff General Aziz Ahmed told a group of journalists in Dhaka that they would first fence the major camps to improve their condition while the rest would be fenced gradually.
Approximately 7,23,000 Rohingyas have fled targeted violence and serious human rights violations in Myanmar since August 2017 to take shelter in Cox’s Bazar, with some three lakh Rohingya refugees already living in camps there for decades.
From August 2017 to August 2019, a total of 466 criminal cases were filed in connection with possession of illegal arms and drugs, robbery, rapes, abductions, smuggling, thefts, murders and human trafficking involving Rohingyas.
Germany-based Rohingya activist Nay San Lwin on Friday told New Age that setting up of wire-fence would be like putting the displaced Rohingyas into concentration camps.
He further said that he had visited Nazi concentration camps, adding that he did not want his fellow Rohingyas to take refuge in similar ‘concentration camps.
In response to a query, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said the humanitarian agency was not contributing financially to the fencing of the camps.
The UNHCR stated, ‘We do believe that any restrictions on refugee rights, movement and access to basic services should be related and proportionate to identified security risks.’
Asked about the criticism of the fencing by rights activists, the state minister for disaster management and relief said that the Rohingyas would have specific routes for their movement and they would be brought under ‘accountability’.
‘But’, he added, ‘the government has no intention to hamper their human rights’.
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