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Bangladesh rescues 20 Rohingya held by refugee racket gang

Bangladesh police have rescued 20 Rohingya after busting a gang, which ferried the refugees from Myanmar but demanded thousands of dollars for the boat ride, an official said on Tuesday.

The Rapid Action Battalion raided a village near the border with Myanmar late Monday to free the Rohingya Muslims who had been held there for a day, said Major Ruhul Amin.

The RAB chief who led the operation at Sabrung near Cox’s Bazar told AFP the 20 included seven women, five men and eight children.

“They were held there by a gang of boat owners and crew who demanded 20,000 taka ($250) per person for a two-hour boat ride from Myanmar,” he said.

A boat ride between Maungdaw and Bangladesh’s main landing station at Shah Porir Dwip would cost no more than five dollars normally.

Amin said they arrested three members of the gang for profiteering.

The UN estimates that 507,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Rakhine into Bangladesh since late August after the latest eruption of violence in the northern Myanmar state.

Many have arrived on rickety boats crossing the Naf River, which marks the border between Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district and Rakhine.

Police said boat owners, crew and fishermen have charged exorbitant prices for the rides.

“It has become a common phenomenon” since the influx began, Amin said.

Authorities have deployed mobile courts to crack down on the profiteering gangs and handed down sentences of up to six months’ jail on nearly 200 people.

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