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Jack Of All Trades

Who are behind the illegal passports issued to Rohingyas?

Published : Wednesday, 19 February, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 228

Nizam Ahmed

Nizam Ahmed

Official figure of Rohingya Muslims, who fled Myanmar military crackdown with genocidal intent, in 2017 and now living in the world's largest refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, will cross 800,000 once Saudi Arabia deports around 50,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh.
During the crackdown thousands were killed, women raped and their houses burnt to ashes. The total number of Rohingyas living at the refugee camp and many other makeshift shelters in the Cox's Bazar and the adjacent Bandarban districts has crossed 1,100,000 with those who had fled Myanmar following Muslim-Buddist communal riots in 2012.

Saudi Arabia wants to send the Rohjngyas back to Bangladesh as they entered into the Kingdom using Bangladesh passports and pretending as Bangladeshi nationals in the recent past.

The relevant authorities in Bangladesh have been in an awkward situation after Saudi Arabia at a recent bilateral meeting held in Dhaka asked the former to take back the people staying in the oil-rich country with Bangladesh passports.
Bangladesh authorities cannot deny that the said Rohingya refugees obtained Bangladesh passports in connivance of the relevant officials and managed to fly to Saudi Arabia in the past several years.  Question also arises how being foreigners or refugees, Rohingyas could manage to possess Bangladesh passports.
It is needless to say that influential sections of the passport issuing authority or the Immigration Department, law enforcing agencies and leaders of lower tier of the local government like Union Parishad are deeply involved in the scam. 
The issue has proved once again that some Bangladesh officials are highly corrupt and they can be bought even by stateless refugees for few bucks. The issue has raised questions of credibility of Bangladesh passports.

Concerned quarter thinks that if a large number of Rohingyas can obtain Bangladesh passport and fly to different countries, terrorists and criminals can also avail Bangladesh passports to accomplish their destructive missions.

During and after the bilateral meeting Saudi officials expressed their eagerness to send the Rohingyas to Bangladesh as the country issued passport to those Rohingyas.
"This is a sensitive issue. We don't want deportation for the sake of deportation. There are issues of security. We are talking about it," said Saudi Labour and Social Development Deputy Minister Mahir Abdul Rahman Gassim while briefing the media in Dhaka after the bilateral meeting.

However, Bangladesh during the bilateral meeting heard the Saudi delegate regarding Rohingyas having Bangladeshi passports and assumed that Bangladesh would respond to Saudi proposals after discussing the issue with the relevant ministries, which are involved in the process of issuing the passports.

It is an open secret that Rohingyas who can afford always tend to come out of the overcrowded refugee camp to seek out better life inside or outside Bangladesh.
Having survived brutal persecution in Myanmar and living a life of destitution in the camps in Bangladesh, many desperate Rohingyas are spending money to get their hands on fake documents to pass themselves off as Bangladeshis.

 Many desperate Rohingyas undertake illegal sea voyage in mechanised boats to reach Malaysia and other countries.  Many of them die in boat capsize and the survivors languish in prisons after rescue and necessary succour. In the latest incident more than 20 Rohingyas, mostly children and women died and many went missing after a boat capsize near Saint Martin Island last week. 

The mishap occurred when a boat carrying Rohingyas believed to sneak out from refugee camps in Cox's Bazar was sailing to Malaysia. The matter has exposed that Rohingyas can move freely to contact human traffickers as they can also manage government officials, law enforcers and local Union Parishad leaders to obtain passports and national identity cards (NID).

Over the past few months, around 100 Rohingya people have been detained in various districts with Bangladeshi passports and NIDs, which only Bangladeshis can use.
Experts believe at this stage Bangladesh has no alternative and will have to take the Rohingyas not only back, but may also give Citizen-like treatment to them,  because the passports which the Rohingyas possessing are the documents that they are the citizens of Bangladesh, because only the citizens can obtain passports of a country.
On the other hand the matter will not end here even after receiving the Bangladeshi passport wielding Rohingyas back from Saudi Arabia. It is feared that most of the Bangladesh people travelling or staying abroad will face a new hassles as the relevant authorities in those countries will like to double check the authenticity of the Bangladesh passports. 

Currently around 11 million Bangladesh citizens are employed mostly in the Gulf region and Middle East. A significant number of them are also employed in Malaysia, United States and some European countries where a large number of Bangladesh students are also studying in different universities.

When Bangladesh will take back the Rohingyas having the passports issued by the Immigration authorities, international media are likely to give wide coverage highlighting the corruption in relevant sensitive departments of the country. Subsequently global corruption watchdog Transparency International will come up to put Bangladesh among most few corrupt countries of the world.

Meanwhile Free Rohingya Coalition, a global platform of Rohingyas worldwide, has urged Saudi Arabia not to deport any Rohingyas until the genocide against them in Myanmar is over.

"Once the case is settled and peace prevails in Myanmar's Rakhine state, they will go back to their country of origin. At this moment, we urge Saudi authorities not to deport any Rohingyas -- either from the detention camps or outside in the Kingdom -- to Bangladesh," Free Rohingya Coalition Co-founder Nay San Lwin said in a statement last week.
Nay San Lwin said there are some three lakh Rohingyas living in Saudi Arabia. Around 1600 of them were in detention camps in Jeddah. Of them, a few dozen were deported to Bangladesh last year.

"The Roingyas living in Saudi Arabia are a source of livelihood for their families back either in Bangladesh or Myanmar. Deporting them means the fate of their families in Bangladesh or Rakhine will only worsen," he reportedly told a Dhaka - based newspaper from Germany.

But the Saudi diplomatic sources in Dhaka said, when the Kingdom has decided to expel the Bangladesh passport wielding Rohingyas, no plea or pressure from any group or country can convince the Saudi authorities to reverse the decision. Media reports said Saudi Arabia listed some 42,000 Rohingyas staying in the Kingdom with passports issued by Bangladesh authorities
Under the circumstances it seems that Bangladesh will have to accept those Rohingyas if deported and dumped at the country's international airports by Saudi authorities. In that case it will be a matter of great shame and also liabilities for government of Bangladesh.
Experts believe it is the high time for Bangladesh to be proactive in reforming the country's immigration and passport department by bringing the officials to book for their involvement in issuing passport to Rohingyas illegally

The author is Business Editor,
The Daily Observer

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