The United Nations says Rohingya girls are being sold into forced labor as a desperate attempt to escape overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh and earn money for their struggling families.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has identified 99 cases of human trafficking since September 2017. The victims included 35 girls and 31 adult women — the overwhelming majority were trafficked for forced labor.
“The stories we commonly hear are of vulnerable people being approached by traffickers with false promises of work and a better life,” said IOM spokeswoman Dina Parmer.
“Others may be aware it is dangerous, but feel their situation is so desperate that they are willing to take extreme measures, perhaps sacrificing one family member for the sake of the rest of the family.”
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
More than 900,000 Rohingya, an ethnic and religious Muslim minority in Myanmar, live in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, the vast majority in camps, according to the United Nations.
About 700,000 of them arrived in the four months after deadly attacks by Rohingya insurgents on Myanmar security forces in August 2017 were followed by military operations that the United Nations and human rights groups said targeted civilians.
Bangladesh bars refugees from leaving the camps, or holding jobs other than participating in small-scale cash-for-work programs run by humanitarian agencies, IOM noted.
“They are desperate to get out of the camps to make some money,”said Jishu Barua from charity Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) in Cox’s Bazar.
The remainder of the 99 trafficking victims identified by IOM included 25 adult men and eight boys who were forced into labor. Five women and four girls were trafficked for sexual exploitation.
Separately, Bangladeshi charity Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) says it is raising awareness among refugees of the dangers of trafficking by collecting reports from Rohingya community leaders, local groups, and international aid agencies.
In contrast to the 99 victims identified by IOM, Barua says YPSA has found more than 1,000 refugee victims of trafficking.