By Sajidul Haque
They are worried that the listing process might just be the beginning of a push-back programme.

Many Rohingyas are leaving Cox’s Bazar to take shelter elsewhere in Bangladesh.

Some are returning to Myanmar to try and get listed in the latest census.

The foreign ministry is saying further actions will be determined after the listing process ends.

The cabinet on Sep 9 last year approved a national strategy paper on Myanmar refugees and illegal immigrants.

The listing is part of that strategy paper. Different state agencies have started working to this end.

Md Rahimullah, a resident of the unregistered Rohingya camp in Teknaf’s Shamlapur, told “People in registered camps get some benefits. We don’t get those. If the government sends us back after this enlistment, we’ll be killed.”

The 30-year-old said he came to Bangladesh at the age of 18. He has no documentation of being a Myanmar citizen.

Jafar Ullah, 45, a rickshaw puller in Cox’s Bazar town, came to Bangladesh in 1995.

“The government might push us out of the country after this listing. Many of us are moving from the district because of this fear,” he said.

Sexagenarian Abdus Shukur and teenager Karim Ali (who was born in Bangladesh), both living in Shamlapur, voiced the same worries.

“Most of us work as fishermen. We barely make a living. We escaped to Cox’s Bazar because we couldn’t stay in our own country. Now we hear that the government will put us on a list,” Shukur said.

“We’re worried. Once they put us on this list, will they give us ration cards or send us back to Burma?” he asked.

According to the United Nation’s refugee agency UNHCR and the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC), there are over 200,000 Rohingyas, including 30,000 registered, at the Kutupalong and Nayaparha refugee camps.

Registered Rohingyas have legal status as refugees and have ration cards.

The government claims there are 500,000 more scattered across the country. The government and UNHCR have recently undertaken a joint survey to count the residents of the camps.

The latest Myanmar census did not list Rohingya Muslims as Rohingyas.

Foreign Secretary MdShahidul Haque told a questionnaire was being prepared to count Rohingyas in light of a strategy paper approved by the cabinet.

Asked what sort of steps would be taken after the enlistment, he said, “We still don’t know how many of them are here. We’ll take decisions after we get the numbers,”

UNHCR Country Representative Stina Ljungdell told in a written statement that in UNHCR’s view, the listing of unregistered Rohingya refugees would be a key element of a comprehensive strategy.

It would, she said, give the government a crucial insight into who is present on its territory.

“An identification exercise would also lay the groundwork for future durable solutions, first among them, voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity, when that becomes possible.”

“A correct profiling of this refugee population will also guide the planning of any humanitarian response,” she said.

She also said UNHCR was advocating to the government to ensure certain matters, such as the listing exercise led to some kind of documentation and temporary legal status to ensure that the refugees had access to justice, and that their protection and their basic needs were provided for.

Muslim Rohingyas from Myanmar have been entering the country for the last two decades, driven by political and ethnic persecution.

The government’s position is that Rohingyas are creating a pressure on the population and getting involved in criminal activities.