By UCA News
By Stephan Uttom and Rock Ronald Rozario
Authorities in Bangladesh have banned dozens of aid agencies from operating among Rohingya refugees for alleged misdeeds including fund embezzlement and compromising security.
Activities of 41 NGOs have been suspended based on intelligence reports that found their involvement in various misdeeds, Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen told reporters on Aug. 31.
“We have information that more NGOs are also involved in misdeeds at camps and we will take steps against them soon,” the minister said.
A deputy director of the NGO Affairs Bureau said seven of the 41 banned NGOs were recently allowed to resume operations in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district.
“The NGOs were banned after intelligence reports found they were involved in misappropriation of funds and disregarding security issues, among others. However, seven NGOs were later allowed to work as further investigation found allegations against them baseless,” the official told ucanews.com on condition of anonymity.
Sources in refugee camps told ucanews.com that the government was concerned to find more than 200,000 Rohingya refugees had held a mass rally on Aug. 25 to mark the second anniversary of a military crackdown in Rakhine State that forced more than 740,000 Rohingya to flee from Myanmar to Bangladesh.
Most participants wore special T-shirts and used digital banners to call for five key demands including citizenship, irking the authorities. Some media outlets published reports accusing NGOs of encouraging Rohingya to resist repatriation to Myanmar for their “vested interests.”
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Mukti (Freedom) Cox’s Bazar, one of the NGOs banned from operating in refugee camps, was accused of providing “sharp weeding tools” to refugees that could be used for crimes.
Despite vigilance from law enforcers, Rohingya refugee camps have been hit by crimes including murder, kidnapping, drug peddling and violence in the past two years.
“Our six projects for the refugees have been suspended on baseless allegations. We have prepared weeding tools for distribution among native farmers, not for refugees. A conspiracy was hatched against us to create a misperception and to malign our organization,” said Bimol Charda Dey, executive director of Mukti Cox’s Bazar. “We are working to prove the allegations were baseless. Hopefully, we will be allowed to work among refugees again.”
The government has increased intelligence and surveillance in camps in recent weeks and has been scrutinizing activities of NGOs, according to James Gomes, regional director of Catholic charity Caritas Bangladesh.
“The moves are welcome because activities in the camps must be clean and faultless. No NGO should engage in activities except what is permitted, but I also think even an NGO accused of misdeeds should be allowed to defend itself,” Gomes told ucanews.com. “The suspension of dozens of NGOs will create a gap in refugee camps temporarily, but the NGO coordination team is effective, so the gap can be filled soon.”