How Bangladesh’s traffickers are targeting Rohingya women at refugee camp

Special Rohingya women refugees leave the beach for their tents at Balohan ferry port in Sabang, Indonesia’s Aceh province. (File/AFP)
Rohingya women refugees leave the beach for their tents at Balohan ferry port in Sabang, Indonesia’s Aceh province. (File/AFP)
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Updated 09 July 2024
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How Bangladesh’s traffickers are targeting Rohingya women at refugee camp

Rohingya women refugees leave the beach for their tents at Balohan ferry port in Sabang, Indonesia’s Aceh province. (File/AFP)
  • Conditions in Cox’s Bazar camp are ‘inhumane,’ Amnesty International has said 
  • Many women are trafficked amid increasing frustration, uncertainties 

DHAKA: A rising number of Rohingya women in Bangladesh are being targeted by human traffickers who offer them an escape from deteriorating conditions in the world’s largest refugee camp.

Nearly 1 million Rohingya people are living in squalid conditions in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, which Amnesty International described as “inhumane” last year. Refugees are not allowed to leave the fenced area and are trapped inside with limited food, water and electricity. 

Thousands have been trying to flee the overcrowded Bangladeshi camp in recent years, hoping to seek a better life elsewhere, often with the help of human trafficking networks.

“Human trafficking is undoubtedly a problem here. From the government’s side, we are trying to combat this,” Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, told Arab News on Tuesday.

“Women and children are being trafficked in many cases, and this is derived from absolute frustration and penniless situations.”

Some 569 Rohingya — out of almost 4,500 — died or went missing in 2023 while trying to relocate to another country through deadly sea crossings, often on rickety boats, the highest figure in nine years, according to data from the UN Refugee Agency.

Many are taken to Malaysia and Indonesia, with Jakarta blaming human traffickers for the increasing number of Rohingya entering the country by boat late last year.

Rahman said that many women take the perilous sea journeys “with the aim of getting married to a Rohingya man” who may have relocated to a country in Southeast Asia.

He said: “Most of the Rohingya living in Malaysia are male. They get married to Rohingya girls living in the camps through (contact by) mobile phones. Later, the male sends money to bring the wife to Malaysia.”

In such cases, the Rohingya involved would “make contact with the human traffickers” to circumvent their lack of legal documents to travel.

Rahman added: “In this process, sometimes they become successful, and sometimes they end up in abusive situations. Sometimes they die by drowning at sea.”

The predominantly Muslim Rohingya people — referred to by the UN as the “world’s most persecuted minority” — have faced decades of persecution in Myanmar.

More than 730,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh in 2017 after a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar military, which the UN said amounted to genocide.

The Rohingya in Bangladesh have faced restrictions on movement and work in the years since, forcing them into being idle amid growing uncertainties over their future, dwindling international aid and languishing attempts for a dignified repatriation.

Dhaka-based migration expert Asif Munir told Arab News: “There’s no permanent solution in sight in the camp-life situation; this has created frustration among the camp population.

“The Rohingya population is vulnerable and also densely populated. In terms of the network of traffickers, they can move more freely and sort of exploit the women who are already in a vulnerable condition within the camps.”

Even the presence of law enforcement officers is not enough to keep up with the Rohingya population, Munir said, as authorities also have to deal with security incidents involving armed groups within and around the refugee camp.

For many Rohingya women, life in Cox’s Bazar is layered with challenges. Many of them have been exploited by local Bangladeshi men with promises of marriage, or lured into commercial sex work.

Munir added: “In a way, they feel at least that if they are somehow able to go to Malaysia, they would have a better life, even if it’s not very legal.

“Traffickers and smugglers are ready to provide the service in exchange for money. And for the women who feel that they’re backed up against a wall, this is an option.”


Bangladeshi military enforces ‘unprecedented’ curfew as protest deaths mount

Bangladeshi military enforces ‘unprecedented’ curfew as protest deaths mount
Updated 14 sec ago
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Bangladeshi military enforces ‘unprecedented’ curfew as protest deaths mount

Bangladeshi military enforces ‘unprecedented’ curfew as protest deaths mount
  • Supreme Court hearing on contentious job quotas expected on Sunday
  • At least 103 people dead, including 44 killed in Dhaka on Friday alone

DHAKA: The Bangladeshi military was deployed to the streets to impose a nationwide curfew on Saturday, after more than 100 people were killed in clashes between police and students protesting government job quotas.

The curfew follows a communications blackout that has left the country of 170 million cut off from the world. Television channels were off air and most local news websites were down as the government shut internet services a day earlier.

“Army members will operate in aid to the civil administration under the guidance of district administrators and city commissioners,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Kamal told Arab News.

In the capital, the military joined riot police and thousands of Border Guard personnel after the Dhaka Metropolitan Police banned all gatherings amid increasing numbers of casualties.

Students have been demonstrating since the beginning of July against a rule that reserves a bulk of government jobs for the descendants of those who fought in the country’s 1971 liberation war.

At least 103 people have been killed in the past five days and thousands injured, according to a count based on reports in the local media. On Friday alone, at least 44 people were killed in Dhaka, which saw intense clashes between protesters, government supporters and security forces.

Air Commodore (Rtd) Ishfaq Ilahi Choudhury, a security analyst, told Arab News that the nationwide military-backed curfew and the amount of violence across the country were “something unprecedented.”

He was referring to reports that numerous administration offices were set on fire and government vehicles vandalized on Friday. On Thursday, the headquarters of a state-owned television station was set ablaze.

“We have not seen such vandalism earlier in the country where many significant government establishments were vandalized and set on fire,” Choudhury said.

The government abolished the controversial quota system after student protests in 2018, but the High Court reinstated it in June, triggering protests.

An appeal hearing is expected at the Supreme Court on Sunday morning.

Under the quota system, 56 percent of public service jobs are reserved for specific groups, including women, marginalized communities and children and grandchildren of freedom fighters — for whom the government earmarks 30 percent of the posts.

These quotas, which reserve hundreds of thousands of government jobs, hit young people directly.

The country’s unemployment rate is the highest among people aged between 15 and 29 — more than a fourth of Bangladesh’s population — who constitute 83 percent of the total unemployed.


Trump to hold first campaign rally after assassination attempt

Trump to hold first campaign rally after assassination attempt
Updated 20 July 2024
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Trump to hold first campaign rally after assassination attempt

Trump to hold first campaign rally after assassination attempt
  • Trump and Vance will take the stage in Grand Rapids with the Republican Party unified behind them after this week’s nominating convention

GRAND RAPIDS:Donald Trump will hold his first campaign rally on Saturday since he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt one week ago and fresh from his nominating convention where his takeover of the Republican Party was cemented.
Trump will appear in Grand Rapids, in the battleground state of Michigan, along with his new vice presidential pick, Ohio US Senator J.D. Vance. It will be their first campaign event together as the now official Republican presidential ticket.
Republican Party officials said during Trump’s nominating convention in Milwaukee this week that his brush with death last Saturday had changed him, and that when he made his acceptance speech on Thursday night he would call for national unity.
While Trump began the address with a call for unity and national healing, much of his speech was his well-known list of grievances and attacks on opponents.
It is unclear what type of a speech Trump will deliver on Saturday, but his diehard supporters typically flock to such events to hear Trump’s more traditional inflammatory rhetoric.
Trump and Vance will take the stage in Grand Rapids with the Republican Party unified behind them after this week’s nominating convention. In contrast, the Democrats are in turmoil and it is no longer certain that President Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee facing Trump in the Nov. 5 election.
Biden is facing mounting calls from many elected officials in his own party to step aside as the party’s White House candidate and to end his re-election bid, after his poor debate performance against Trump last month.
Biden is trailing in opinion polls and is behind in every swing state against Trump. Many Democrats fear he may have virtually no path to victory and that the party needs a new presidential candidate to take on Trump.
The rally in Grand Rapids will be in an indoor arena, unlike the event in Butler, Pennsylvania last weekend, which was outdoors. At that event, the gunman was able to scale the roof of a building outside the Secret Service perimeter before opening fire on Trump, clipping his ear, killing a rally-goer and wounding several others.
The US Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting Trump, declined to comment on security for the Grand Rapids event. An investigation is under way into the security failures at the Butler rally.
“The Secret Service does not discuss the means and methods used for our protective operations,” the agency said in a statement.
Trump gave a detailed account of his narrow brush with death in his convention speech on Thursday, telling the audience that he was only talking to them “by the grace of Almighty God.”


Senegal detains boat carrying 200 migrants

Senegal detains boat carrying 200 migrants
Updated 20 July 2024
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Senegal detains boat carrying 200 migrants

Senegal detains boat carrying 200 migrants

DAKAR: Senegal’s army said Saturday that it had intercepted a boat carrying over 200 migrants trying to reach Europe, after nearly 90 died when attempting the dangerous Atlantic crossing earlier this month.
The boat intercepted by the patrol boat in fishing waters near Lompoul in northwest Senegal on Friday was carrying 202 people, including five women and a minor, the army posted on X.
In early July, a boat carrying around 170 people who set off from Senegal capsized off the coast of Mauritania, killing nearly 90 people.
The disaster prompted Senegal’s President Ousmane Sonko to urge people not to risk the Atlantic Ocean’s currents in overcrowded vessels that often are not seaworthy.
But the route is increasingly used as authorities step up surveillance in the Mediterranean.
“I once again make a plea to the young: your solution is not to be found in boats,” Sonko told a crowd of youths in Saint-Louis.
“The future of the world is in Africa... the only continent that still has the significant scope for progress and growth.”
According to the Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras, more than 5,000 people died trying to reach Spain by sea in the first five months of this year, representing the highest daily average toll since it began keeping records in 2007.


Two killed in overnight strikes on Ukraine

Two killed in overnight strikes on Ukraine
Updated 20 July 2024
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Two killed in overnight strikes on Ukraine

Two killed in overnight strikes on Ukraine

KYIV: At least two people were killed and four wounded in a Russian airstrike overnight on Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region, the regional prosecutor said Saturday.
“Around 3:15 in the morning the enemy launched a missile attack on the town of Barvinkove, in Izium district,” the prosecutor said in a statement.
It listed the dead as two men aged 48 and 69 and said around 50 buildings were damaged in the strike, apparently by three Russian Iskander missiles.
Another strike hit an agricultural business in the village of Oleksiivka, it said, though there were no reported casualties.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been urging his nation’s allies to step up air defense support to be able to intercept Russian missiles and drones raining down daily on the country over nearly 30 months of conflict.
The death toll in a Russian strike Friday on a playground in the southern city of Mykolaiv rose to four, including one child, with 24 injured, its mayor Oleksander Senkevitch posted on Telegram.


China bridge collapse kills 11, leaves more than 30 missing

China bridge collapse kills 11, leaves more than 30 missing
Updated 20 July 2024
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China bridge collapse kills 11, leaves more than 30 missing

China bridge collapse kills 11, leaves more than 30 missing

BEIJING: A bridge collapse caused by torrential rains in northern China killed 11 people and left more than 30 missing, state media said Saturday.
Large parts of northern and central China have been battered in recent days by rains that have caused flooding and significant damage.
The bridge in the northwestern Shaanxi province buckled “due to a sudden downpour and flash floods” around 8:40 p.m. on Friday (1240 GMT), according to state news agency Xinhua.
All 11 victims in the city of Shangluo were found inside five vehicles that were recovered from the river below the bridge, state broadcaster CCTV said.
More than 30 people remained missing after the highway bridge collapsed into the water, the broadcaster said.
Images on state television showed a partially submerged section of the bridge with the river rushing over it.
One witness told local media that he had approached the bridge but that other drivers started “yelling at me to brake and stop the car.”
“A truck in front of me didn’t stop” and fell into the water, the witness, surnamed Meng, said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged “all-out rescue and relief efforts” to find those still missing, Xinhua said.
In the southwestern province of Sichuan, more than 30 people were reported missing on Saturday after a violent thunderstorm caused flash flooding in the town of Ya’an, according to CCTV.
On Friday, state media reported at least five people dead and eight missing after the rains sparked flooding and mudslides in Shaanxi’s Baoji city.
State television broadcast images of neighborhoods completely flooded by muddy water, with excavators and residents attempting to clear the damage.
The semi-desert province of Gansu, which neighbors Shaanxi, and Henan in central China were also hit by heavy rains this week.
In Henan’s Nanyang city, the equivalent of a year’s worth of rain fell at the start of the week, CCTV said.
And in Sichuan province, two people were reported killed and seven others missing Friday after heavy rain triggered landslides, Xinhua said.
China is enduring a summer of extreme weather, with heavy rains across the east and south coming as much of the north has sweltered in successive heatwaves.
Climate change, which scientists say is exacerbated by greenhouse gas emissions, is making these types of extreme weather phenomena more frequent and more intense.
In May, a highway in southern China collapsed after days of rain, leaving 48 dead.
This month, a tornado passed through a town in eastern China killing one, injuring 79 and causing significant damage.