DHAKA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Thirty Rohingya refugees were rescued from being trafficked to Malaysia in two separate incidents on Thursday night and Friday morning in the city of Cox’s Bazar, officials said on Friday.
Members of the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), a paramilitary force under Bangladesh’s Ministry of Home Affairs, also detained two traffickers.
Of the 30 rescued, 17 were women, six were men and seven children, a BGB spokesman said.
According to BGB director Asaduzzaman Chowdhury, the first batch of 12 Rohingya were found in the Shah Parir Dwip region, close to the Bangladesh-Myanmar border at 10:30 p.m.
The 18 other refugees were spotted at Shilikhali, an area located near the refugee camps, at around 7 a.m. on Friday.
“Upon speaking to two members of the group we came to know that these people paid the traffickers two lakh takas ($2,400) for each family,” said Chowdhury.
“We warned them that these kinds of adventerous moves could end up costing their lives as it is dangerous to cross the sea. After that we sent them back to their respective camps.”
It has been 18 months since more than 730,000 mainly Muslim Rohingya fled persecution in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar and set up camps across the border about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh’s top tourist location.
The camps, sprawled over about 6,000 acres - just under half the size of Manhattan - have become more organized, but recent police activity suggested the risk of being trafficked had grown.
The latest trafficking incident took place a day after Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie finished her three-day visit to the camps just ahead of a $920 million funding appeal by the United Nations.
Upon visiting the camps Jolie urged the Myanmar authorities to “show the genuine commitment needed to end the cycle of violence, displacement, and improve conditions for all communities in Rakhine state, including the Rohingya.”
The Bangladesh government has not released an official figure for the number of Rohingya who have been trafficked.
The Young Power in Social Action, a non-profit group that deals with trafficking, following an analysis of local papers said last week that at least 200 Rohingya had been rescued in the camps in the last three months.
The United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) had identified about 204 cases of trafficking since the start of the influx up to last week.
“But this is just a fraction of what we believe is happening,” IOM spokeswoman Fiona MacGregor told the Thomson Reuters Foundation last week.
Reporting by Naimul Karim @Naimonthefield; Editing by Jason Fields. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org