Bangladesh police nabs six persons on human trafficking charges, rescues Rohingya illegally heading for Malaysia
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Police are interrogating six people suspected of human trafficking after Bangladeshi guards separately rescued nearly 50 Rohingya refugees from boats heading for Malaysia through the Bay of Bengal, an official said Thursday.
Pradip Kumar Das, officer-in-charge at Teknaf, said they were questioning the suspects to learn about a network of smugglers who may be luring refugees from sprawling camps ahead of a plan to repatriate them.
He said 33 refugees including nine children were rescued from a fishing boat near the Saint Martins Island on Wednesday while another 14 Rohingya were rescued at Shahporir Island a day before.
Six suspected Bangladeshi traffickers were also arrested while the rescued refugees were sent back to their camps in the district, he said.
Das said they were lured by the traffickers with promises of marriages and jobs in Malaysia.
He said the rescued refugees told them they paid money to the traffickers who said they would soon land in Malaysia amid fears that they would have no future in Myanmar's Rakhine state if they are sent back.
Bangladesh and Myanmar said recently that the countries want to start repatriation of the refugees on a limited scale from mid-November.
Abul Kalam, a senior Bangladeshi repatriation official in Cox's Bazar, told The Associated Press that they were readying to start the repatriation of some 2,660 refugees from 485 families on November 15. But many of the refugees are reluctant to go back, fearing persecution and an uncertain future.
More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since August last year amid an army-led crackdown.
The refugees are seeking UN protection to return home. The UN refugee agency and Bangladesh earlier finalised a memorandum of understanding that said the repatriation process must be "safe, voluntary and dignified ... in line with international standards."
(With inputs from agencies.)