Bangladesh has arrested 12 men suspected of targeting Rohingya refugees for trafficking, police said on Friday, amid concerns over the growing desperation of the refugees.
Two Rohingya women and a Bangladeshi child were also held in the operation by the Rapid Action Battalion, an elite force of the Bangladesh police, in the capital Dhaka late on Thursday. Police said they were being questioned.
The arrests came as UN investigator Yanghee Lee warned traffickers were increasingly targeting Rohingya both in Myanmar and in neighbouring Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands fled following a brutal military crackdown in 2017.
Mainly Buddhist Myanmar regards the Muslim minority Rohingya as illegal migrants. “These traffickers are involved in sending people to Malaysia and the Middle East,” Major Mohammad Ashraful Haque told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
He said they had taken 250,000 taka ($3,000) from each of the three and had given them fake identity documents. “We suspect that they were bringing in more Rohingya,” he added.
In a statement, the RAB said the suspects were part of a “human trafficking ring” that had long been “taking advantage of the desperate Rohingya”. Scores of Rohingya have boarded boats in recent months to try to reach Malaysia and Thailand, prompting fears of a fresh wave of people smuggling by sea. (RTRS)