Rohingya rehab: tension brew between locals and refugee

An undercurrent of tension is brewing between the locals and refugees, further complicating the world's worst humanitarian crisis

A year after Bangladesh witnessed fleeing of Rohingyas en-mass from the Rakhine state in adjoining Myanmar, an undercurrent of tension is brewing between the locals and refugees, further complicating the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Since August 2017, nearly 12 lakh Rohingyas moved to the coastal district Cox's Bazar. Nearly 800,000 of them are in Kutupalong camp in Ukhia and about 300,000 are in Nayapara camp in Teknaf, 45 km from Kutupalong. The rest are on the roads between the two camps.

Aids are pouring in from all over the world for maintenance and upkeep of the two camps where an extensive food distribution system has been put in place.

Elaborate arrangements have also been made for clean drinking water, vaccination needs for children, healthcare needs for the inmates of the camp and maintenance of law and order.

These are not to the liking of the 220,000 locals in Ukhia sub-district, who are outnumbered by the Rohingyas by four times.

“Locals are adversely affected because of the Rohingyas. The forests in the hill tracts of Chittagong were destroyed triggering landslides,” admitted H T Imam, political advisor to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina while talking to a group of journalists in Dhaka last week.

While Imam didn't elaborate on the nature of the problems, DH spoke to the locals, who narrated several types of problems they faced since the Rohingyas came.

A higher wage is the first flashpoint. A large number of Rohingyas work as labours inside Kutupalong for the construction of roads, drains and houses. Their daily wage is 400 Bangladesh Taka – way above the daily earning of a local.

Each of the refugee families up to four members receive 30 kg rice a month whereas families with 5-8 members receive 60 kg rice. They also receive other food items and household goods proportionate to their family size. Some of these items found a way to the local market in Ukhia fetching money for the Rohingyas.

“The house rent in the area went up like anything because all the NGOs and aid agencies want space to live and run their houses. The locals can't pay such high rent. The prices of commodities ranging from Hilsa fish (a delicacy) to areca nut (a staple for both locals and Rohingya) shot up. The locals can't pay so much but at least some of the Rohingyas can,” said Shimul, a taxi driver who drives to Kutupalong daily because of his job with an NGO.

With Parliament polls around the corner, politicians are aware of people's discontentment in the seaside district but could do little as there is no solution in sight for the vexed problem.

 

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Rohingya rehab: tension brew between locals and refugee

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