The government for the first time will begin a census of Rohingyas staying in Bangladesh illegally to give them special identity documents and prepare a database.
Ahead of the census, scheduled to begin in March, the government will launch a massive awareness campaign among the Rohingyas, the Myanmarese Muslims, so that they enrol in the survey.
Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque spelled out the plan at a briefing organised for the Western diplomats, UN and other donor agencies based in Bangladesh at the State Guesthouse Padma yesterday.
The identity documents will be called “information cards”, which will recognise the Rohingyas in Bangladesh as “Myanmar Muslims and not citizens of Bangladesh”. Over the years, they have entered this country fleeing persecution in Myanmar.
The cards will help the illegal or undocumented Rohingyas to get education, medicare and some other basic facilities and also protect them from harassment or arrest by law enforcers.
Finance ministry sources said a Tk 21.75 crore project for conducting the census has already been approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec).
Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) will carry out a survey in Cox's Bazar, Bandarban, Rangamati, Chittagong, Khagrachhari and Patuakhali under the project.
A database, comprising pictures and general information, would also be prepared.
The census will identify the present addresses of the Rohingyas and their origins in Myanmar. Besides, it will collect their socioeconomic and demographic statistics.
According to Planning Commission officials, there is no accurate statistics about how many undocumented Rohingyas are now living in Bangladesh, but it is estimated to be 3 to 5 lakh.
Official sources say that despite strict vigilance in the border areas, on average eight to 10 Rohingyas infiltrate every day.
These illegal Rohingyas have been settling in different areas, destroying forests. They are also getting involved in criminal activities, they said.
The Planning Commission sources said these Rohingyas lead a very poor life, and the international community has for long been requesting Bangladesh to ensure the quality of life of the Rohingyas.