Sexual predators and criminal gangs are scouring the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, looking for vulnerable women and children to exploit, according to aid groups.

“We've heard stories of people coming in and offering people, looking for orphans and saying, ‘We'll take you to a safe place’,” said Zia Choudhury, Bangladesh country director for the humanitarian group CARE.

“[They're] offering people jobs to go and work as cleaners or maids, and we know that those are organized gangs who are going to whisk these vulnerable people away and take them to some worse situation.”

Some 580,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled their homes since August, when the Myanmar government launched a crackdown against the Muslim minority.

Choudhury noted that men are turning up and offering cash to people who are in dire need of help in exchange for sex.

The Bangladesh government and aid agencies are doing all they can to keep the criminal gangs and predators out of the camps and protect vulnerable people, he added.

The UN has denounced the Myanmar government’s persecution of the Rohingya Muslims as “ethnic cleansing”.

According to a UN humanitarian response plan, some 448,000 people in the camps are in dire need of assistance because of gender-based violence, including sexual assaults, rape, and trauma.