The women and girls are given Bangladeshi national ID cards and passports to cross borders
Thousands of Rohingya fled their homeland – Myanmar's Arakan – amid the military junta's campaign of ethnic cleansing.
Within a few days of the brutal killing mission, in mid-2017, thousands of Rohingya crossed the border and took shelter in neighbouring Bangladesh.
At least a million Rohingya have since been living in Cox's Bazar's three refugee camps.
However, now, the Rohingya women – and especially the juvenile females – are being trafficked for prostitution abroad.
Members of several Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies confirmed this to The Business Standard.
Rohingyas are allowed to live in three camps in the country's southern-most district.
Meanwhile, international human traffickers are now active in these camps and have trafficked hundreds of Rohingya women and children abroad.
In recent drives, Bangladesh Police and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), found trafficking gangs present and involved in camp life.
A bid to send 13 Rohingya women and children abroad was foiled.
The revelation came when, on Sunday, RAB rescued the Rohingya women and children from the clutches of human traffickers.
At the beginning of this year, 13 Rohingya women and juveniles left the camps and separately journeyed towards Dhaka – to head to Malaysia in search of a better life.
Prior to making their way to the capital, the Rohingyas established contact with a human trafficking racket that helped them acquire passports by fraudulent means.
They safely reached the city and stayed in a flat in Banasree.
Promising them good jobs abroad, the gang made all the necessary arrangements to send them to Kolkata – via the Benapole land port – and fly to Malaysia.
This was revealed when RAB rescued the Rohingya women from the alleged human traffickers on Sunday.
"Based on a tip-off, we raided the Banasree flat and detained three persons – including Kabir Hossain, a travel agency official," said Lieutenant Colonel Rokibul Hasan, RAB 3 commanding officer.
"Kabir rented the flat and completed all the procedures for the Rohingya women to leave the country using fake passports and documents," he added.
During initial interrogation, the detainees admitted that they bribed passport officials to issue fake passports in the names of the Rohingyas, said Faijul Islam, the RAB 3 deputy director.
How the women were trafficked
The Business Standard spoke to some of the women who were being trafficked to India and Malaysia for prostitution.
One of them, Kaniz Fatema, just turned 16. She had witnessed a brutal killing and massacre in Arakan in 2017.
Abul Bashar and Tahera Begum's daughter Fatema had been living in Balukhali Rohingya camp and their life was monotonous for the prior two-and-a-half years.
"We were like free birds in Arakan, at my village, but then we had to save ourselves by fleeing to Bangladesh. We were grateful that the authority opened the border, but after a few years, we discovered that we were trapped in a cage in the camp," she added.
"That was not the life I wanted, confined in a camp with just a few facilities like food and medical check-ups; that angered me enough to leave the camp," she added.
Another trafficking victim, Haresa Begum, 16, also told The Business Standard that she had been lured to the traffickers with promises of a better job in Malaysia – and the gang helped her to escape from the camp.
"I was so hopeless in the camp and a few persons including the camp majhi, leader, came to me and assured me I would get a job abroad. My parents did not bar me from leaving the camp. But we were only told that we were getting domestic work in Malaysia or abroad," Haresa said, beginning to cry.
Shahia Begum, 17, was also supposed to go Malaysia with a few human traffickers.
"I dreamt of a life better than at the camp but after I learned the facts – after being detaining by the law enforcement agency – I just stopped for a moment. We had experienced brutality in Arakan and again I was going to be sold in a brothel. Life would have been hell –like in Arakan," she observed.
About the gang
Md Abdus Sabur was allegedly the ring leader of a racket that had been operating from Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur since 2016.
The other members of the gang allegedly were: Md Foyez Hossain, Md Aiyub, Md Fayez Hossain, Md Habibur Rahman, Aiyub Hossain, Titu Miah, and Sultan Ahmed.
Md Abdus Sabur and Md Aiyub, allegedly operated the gang from Malaysia and sold Rohingya women and juveniles.
The three arrested people told RAB that women and children sell for a minimum of between 22,000-25,000 Malaysian ringgit.
Faijul Islam, RAB 3 deputy director and operations officer told The Business Standard that Foyez and Habibur worked at the camps, with the majhi, to motivate the women and juveniles to go abroad.
"Their main target was 16-25 year-old juveniles and women; they lured them with jobs abroad and convinced their parents," he added.
However, the traffickers were aware of surveillance which is why they did not gather in groups.
"The racket transported them [the victims] alone, on luxurious busses, so that they would not be arrested," he added.
Following strict surveillance in Cox's Bazar the traffickers allegedly gathered all the women and juveniles in a house and kept them in a residential hotel in Paltan area.
"Then they forged all the necessary documents – like passports and national identity cards – through several offices in Dhaka," Faijul Islam said.
Their extensive network allowed them to get all the papers; passport and election officials were involved in the scam, according to a RAB official.
Aiyub Hossain and Titu Miah, absconding, were allegedly involved in forging documents.
The duo allegedly travelled to Jessore's Benapole and initially trafficked the Rohingya juveniles to India.
After crossing the border, Sultan Ahmed allegedly received them and ensured they were fed and sheltered.
Three-four days later he allegedly made the group travel to Malaysia.
Aiyub, who lives in Malaysia, also travelled frequently to Bangladesh and allegedly trafficked several women and juveniles as his brides.
Faijul Islam urged the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment to find the alleged ringleader Abdus Sabur and return him.
This all happened under the guise of a recruiting agency.
When contacted, Noman Chowdhury, General Secretary of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) said that if any of their members commit this kind of heinous crime they will punish it strictly.
Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmed could not be reached for comment as he was in the United Arab Emirates.
Shariful Islam Hasan, head of BRAC's migration programme, told the Business Standard these activities should be stopped at all cost.
"How did they get passports and national identity cards? This is absurd. If we do not stop the game right now our image in the global arena will be demolished," he added.