07/04/2019, 13.09
BANGLADESH
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Drugs and petty crime among Rohingya youth awaiting repatriation Cox’s Bazar

by Sumon Corraya

Since August 2017, more than 700,000 Muslims have fled Myanmar. Half of the refugees are under 18. About 98 per cent of young people do not have a job and get involved in illegal activities.

 

Cox’s Bazar (AsiaNews) – Abdur Rahiam Miha, 22, teaches at a child friendly space in a refugee camp. When not working, he listens to the radio from Myanmar, his country of origin.

He told AsiaNews that he earns 9,000 taka, around US$ 106, a month. "Being a teacher is a great honour for me,” he said.  “I can meet my needs."

His is a positive story, but this is not the case for most young Rohingya refugees who live in the camps in Cox’s Bazar, southern Bangladesh. Many try to make ends meet with small deals, illegal ones something.

After the outbreak of violence in August 2017, some 700,000 Muslims fled the Myanmar state of Rakhine to escape persecution.

After different waves of violence, at least a million refugees found shelter in various camps in Cox’s Bazar, an area along the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar. About half of all refugees are youth and children.

Mahomad Haffizulla, a friend of the teacher, notes that "not everyone is as lucky as he is. Only a few young Rohingya work; 98 per cent are unemployed. Although we receive help from non-governmental organisations, many of us get into criminal activities."

He laments that people in camps have no great hope. "For this reason, as we wait for repatriation with uncertainty, young people get into illegal work such as dealing in 'yaba'[*] or steal."

Camp 7 in Ukhiya has several stalls selling vegetables, fruit and CNGs (motorised rickshaws). Young people are in charge of the shops and the vehicles.

Many camp residents, according to Shapon Ahamad, "feel in danger. I don't feel safe when I walk. I'm afraid to move after 10 pm.” The most common crimes in the camps are rape, robbery, kidnapping and smuggling.

According to the district police, since refugees arrived in August 2017, at least 31 have been killed by fellow refugees; 328 complaints have been lodged against 711 refugees; a group of German journalists was attacked and robbed.

Cox’s Bazar Police Superintendent ABM Masud Hossain confirms the high number of crimes. However, alongside all this, Rohingya youth still dream of peaceful repatriation.

For Abdur Rahiam Miha, a teacher, "This is not our country. We want to go home and see our fundamental rights as human beings respected."


[*] A low-cost mixture of methamphetamine and caffeine, yaba is known as the 'mad drug’ because it causes hallucinations.

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