COX’S BAZAR — Bangladesh on Thursday said it has banned two aid agencies from Rohingya camps in the country’s southeast, alleging they were telling refugees to reject repatriation to their homeland in Myanmar.
The move came amid growing impatience from Dhaka about the presence of the refugees in the country, two years after some 740,000 were driven over the border by a military crackdown on the Muslim minority.
The latest repatriation attempt by Bangladesh and Myanmar two weeks ago, the second in less than a year, failed with not a single refugee volunteering to cross the border back home.
US-based Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and local organisation Al Markazul Islami were accused by the government’s NGO Affairs Bureau of “instigating” the stateless minority against the recent repatriation attempt.
Mr Kamal Hossain, the government administrator of Cox’s Bazar district where the refugee camps are located, said Dhaka had issued a notice for the NGOs to immediately stop their activities across the country.
“The administration is taking action accordingly to the issued order,” he told AFP, adding that the NGO Affairs Bureau also ordered bank transactions by the two agencies to be halted.
More than 130 aid agencies work in the three dozen squalid camps in Cox’s Bazar, where the 740,000 Rohingya fled to, joining some 200,000 others already living here.
Foreign Minister Mr A.K. Abdul Momen last week said Dhaka would crack down on aid agencies if they “do something going beyond their terms and references”.
The Rohingya have refused to go home until Myanmar gives them guarantees of safety and citizenship status.
Tensions have ratcheted up in the camps in recent weeks as refugees marked the two-year anniversary of the 2017 exodus.
Four refugees have also been killed in the fallout over the murder of local ruling party official Mr Omar Faruk, which police blame on Rohingya hitmen.
Bangladeshi authorities on Monday also ordered operators to shut down mobile phone services in the camps amid the outbreak of violence.