The incidents of child disappearances are increasing among the children of displaced Rohingya in Bangladesh.
The spate of disappearances is raising fears the children have been abducted into the region’s human trafficking networks, according to a global media report.
In the past seven months, about 70,000 Rohingya have fled a military onslaught in their home country of Myanmar, and there are concerns the newly arrived status of the latest refugees makes them particularly vulnerable to abduction and exploitation.
Attention is being called to the problem by Action Against Hunger, an NGO that has been helping Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar since well before the arrival of the latest refugees.
As many as 300,000 to 500,000 Rohingya are thought to now be living in Bangladesh.
The child disappearances have prompted country director Nipin Gangadharan to speak out.
Gangadharan, whose NGO has created a series of “safe spaces” for youngsters, says his group has recorded the disappearance of 16 children since January.
One humanitarian worker who did not want to be identified told VOA that that aid groups are aware of roughly 150 Rohingya children who had made the crossing into Bangladesh unaccompanied.
Little is known beyond the fact of the disappearances themselves — which have taken place both inside and outside the camps.
However, Gangadharan said human traffickers are known to have a strong network across the Cox’s Bazar region and to target both Bangladeshis and Rohingyas.
A report in 2014 on child abductions in Bangladesh revealed that of 49 children who had been recovered, the highest number — 15 — came from Cox’s Bazar. Last year, local media reported that trafficking syndicates in Cox’s Bazar involved around 2,000 people.
The traffickers are known to force children to work, beg or smuggle drugs, and have even harvested their organs.
Gangadharan said the recently disappeared children “could be used as part of this network.”