Some Rohingya refugees are making Bangladeshi passports with the help of local and Rohingya brokers, who manage all the required documents in exchange of large amount of money, police and passport officials said.
This syndicate collects the National ID card, citizenship certificate, birth registration and police verification from relevant government offices using their link as well as by bribing officials.
Police and passport officials say the Rohingya people are using fake names and addresses while applying for passports.
In the latest such discovery, Chittagong police arrested three Rohingya men with three Bangladeshi passports against their names from the city’s Kattoli area on Thursday night.
The trio, all of whom took shelter in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar with their families in 2017, were on their way to Dhaka. Two of them got their passports in December 2017, just months after their arrival, and the other in January this year, police said.
They were identified as Yusuf, 25, his younger brother Musa, 20, and Aziz, 25.
They made their passports from Noakhali and were going to the Turkish embassy in the capital for visa processing, said Mustafizur Rahman, officer-in-charge of Akbar Shah Police Station.
Also on Thursday night, Bayezid police detained four Rohingya women from the port city’s Barma Colony area, some 10km from Kattoli. One of the women carried a Bangladesh NID card.
Mustafizur said the three men used to live in Thaingkhali refugee camp in Ukhia, and used an address of Noakhali to get their passports.
“They got the passports with the help of a syndicate that includes local and Rohingya brokers. They spent Tk 60,000, Tk 90,000 and Tk 1.09 lakh for their passports,” he added.
HOW DO THEY GET IT?
To get a passport, the Rohingya people first contact Rohingya and Bangladeshi brokers in Cox’s Bazar. They then collect documents from union parishads or city corporations to prove their citizenship with the help of the brokers, and submit those to the passport office along with their applications.
Last month, the Chattogram Divisional Passport Office detained two Rohingyas — a man and a woman — when they went there to make passports.
At the time, the man identified as Faisal produced documents showing he was from Jungle Salimpur union of Sitakunda. The woman on the other hand identified herself as Sumaiya Akhter from Dhaloi union under Hathazari upazila.
The two even produced the NID cards of their parents, said Abu Sayeed, deputy director of Chattogram Divisional Passport Office.
“The Rohingyas are submitting all the necessary documents to get passports. It is really difficult to identify the Rohingya from among a huge number of applicants,” he told The Daily Star.
He said they could not initially verify the authenticity of the documents, but after suspicion arose, they matched their fingerprints on the Rohingya database and found that they were Rohingyas.
“We have limited access to the server of the NID of the Election Commission, but we have access to the recently-developed database of the Rohingya people,” he said.
During interrogation, the Rohingya people told the passport officials that the brokers managed all the documents for them, he added.
Sayeed blamed local elected public representatives for issuing the documents such as NID card, birth certificate and citizenship certificate.
In case of the three men held on Thursday, they first contacted a Rohingya broker in Ukhia who introduced them to a Bangladeshi broker in Chakaria of Cox’s Bazar, said Mustafizur, the OC of Akbar Shah Police Station.
The man in Chakaria sent them to another broker in Feni who took them to Noakhali after striking a deal.
“The three Rohingya men told us that the passports were made following the due process and they got those within a month after applying for them,” the OC added.
“None of these irregularities could be detected during the verification process, including the police verification, because the syndicate has a strong and powerful network,” he said.