Bangladesh Relocates Rohingya Families after Relatives Killed in Camp Attacks

Abdur Rahman and Sharif Khiam
Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, and Dhaka
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Bangladesh Relocates Rohingya Families after Relatives Killed in Camp Attacks Muhib Ullah, leader of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, speaks to refugees at the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, April 7, 2019.

Local authorities have moved dozens of Rohingya to new locations over security concerns after their relatives were killed in two recent attacks at camps in southeastern Bangladesh, refugee leaders and police confirmed Friday.

Forty-two people representing the family of internationally known Rohingya activist Muhib Ullah, as well as 10 other families associated with the human rights organization that he led, were moved to an undisclosed location, officials told BenarNews. On Sept. 29, gunmen shot dead Ullah (pictured) in his office at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, a district near the Myanmar border.

“We’re offering them overall protection there. A total of 42 members of 11 families were escorted away, responding to a request of the Muhib Ullah murder case investigator,” Naimul Haque, commanding officer of the Armed Police Battalion Unit-14, told BenarNews.

Haque said the relatives of Ullah and the other families linked with his organization, the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), were relocated on Oct. 13 and 14.

“We are not willing to disclose the name of our relocated place. We are safer here than at the camp,” Md. Rashid Ullah, ARSPH spokesman and Muhib Ullah’s nephew, told BenarNews.

Meanwhile, authorities announced that they had moved 31 other refugees to a U.N. agency’s transit center in the area after six of their relatives were killed last week in an attack on a madrassa at the Balukhali camp in Cox’s Bazar.

Md. Kamran Hossain, deputy commander of the Armed Police Battalion 8, said the families of the six killed at the madrassa had been safe but were too afraid to remain at the Balukhali camp.

“They were not in any danger at the camp, but when a family member was killed in this manner, they were all scared of a terrorist attack,” Hossain told BenarNews. “They requested the authorities transfer them away from the camp – that’s why they’ve been relocated to the transit center.”

UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, began opening transit centers in the area in October 2017 to assist those arriving in Bangladesh as part of a mass exodus that began two months earlier when Myanmar’s military launched a brutal offensive against Rohingya in Rakhine, their home state that lies just across the border from Cox’s Bazar.

Transit centers have been used as temporary shelters for Rohingya left homeless by fire or other disasters and as isolation centers for those infected with COVID-19.

On Friday, UNHCR officials did not immediately respond to a BenarNews request for comment.

The transit center housing the families is about four km (2.5 miles) from refugee camps and is protected by government troops and police.

Nurul Islam, whose son, Azizul Haque, was killed in the madrassa attack, said the move was good, but he demanded that more be done.

“We are safer here than at the camp, but this safety will not bring back my son,” he told BenarNews. “I want punishment for the killers of my son.”

The two attacks occurred weeks apart, and the second one was the deadliest incident of violence at the sprawling Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar. About 1 million refugees live in the camps including more than 740,000 who fled Myanmar since the August 2017 offensive in Rakhine.

Police reported arresting 23 suspects – nine linked to Muhib Ullah’s killing including two who confessed to their roles – and 14 linked to the killings at the madrassa.

Relatives of victims of both attacks have blamed a rebel group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, for carrying them out but local authorities have rejected allegations that ARSA has a foothold in the camps or on Bangladeshi territory.

Resettlement plans

Rashid Ullah said his family and the 10 other ARSPH families were willing to settle in a country other than Bangladesh or Myanmar.

“We submitted an application to the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, UNHCR and the U.S. government requesting we be able to settle in a third country,” he said.

“We mentioned the names of three countries in our application and correspondence is ongoing,” Rashid Ullah said without offering details.

Bangladesh’s commissioner for refugee relief and repatriation said he was not aware of the request.

“We have found no application in this regard and we have no such authority to arrange such a settlement,” Shah Rezwan Hayat told BenarNews when asked about the matter. “We will follow the instructions of the foreign ministry in this regard.”

The foreign ministry, meanwhile, has no information about the families’ potential request, according to Miah Md. Mainul Kabir, deputy minister of the ministry’s Myanmar wing.

“Sometimes we have seen interest from some countries to relocate Rohingya,” he told BenarNews. “But in this case, we did not get any such application.”

“We will deal with the matter if any application will be submitted with the ministry,” he said.


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