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AFP
August 22, 2019

Welcome wears thin for Rohingya Muslims in BD

World

AFP
August 22, 2019

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh: When hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled Myanmar into Bangladesh two years ago, local communities were mostly welcoming.

Today that welcome has worn thin, and resentment, anger and fear are creeping in. "At first, as a member of the Muslim community, we helped them," said Riazul Haque, 28, a labourer from Hakimpara, near the border town of Ukhiya.

Haque allowed around 60 Rohingya families to settle on a piece of his land, thinking they would remain for two or three months at most. "Now it seems the rest of the Rohingya living in Burma (Myanmar) will arrive soon in Bangladesh," he complained.

Ukhiya was home to around 300,000 people, but the refugee influx of August 2017 has swelled the population to more than three times that many. Most of the refugees are housed in the sprawling Kutupalong camp, but others -- particularly those with resources -- ventured out in search of opportunity.

Locals blame them from everything from increased pollution and a rise in petty crime, to a lack of work. Mohammed Sojol said he lost his job as a rickshaw driver because vehicle owners now prefer to hire refugees for less pay -- even though officially they aren’t allowed to work. "They are stealing marginal jobs from us by bribing law enforcers," he told AFP.

Some of the Rohingya who settled outside the official camps are now being forced to return and children enrolled in local schools are being expelled. The largely Muslim Rohingya fled a military crackdown in Myanmar that the UN has likened to ethnic cleansing, joining some 200,000 already in Bangladesh.

Only a handful have returned, fearing for their safety in a country where they are denied citizenship and treated as illegal immigrants.

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