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A Rohingya Refugee In Bangladesh Reflects On World Refugee Day

In Bangladesh Kutupalong Refugee Camp (Photo: RB News)

RB Opinion 
June 21, 2014

June 20th was World Refugee Day 2014. It marks a disconcerting milestone of global forced displacement of over 50 million people for the first time since the Second World War. 

"Celebrations" could be found within the two registered UNHCR Rohingya Refugee camps in Bangladesh. These camps filled with Rohingya refugees who have fled from violence, persecution and forced labour in their homeland of Myanmar into neighbouring Bangladesh. Mirroring too many other places, the day is a chance for officials and governments to pat themselves on the back for their efforts despite "resource restrictions." Making a show out of the refugees while keeping the organizers in a good light. A formal presentation, not a chance for the voices of the refugees to be heard. Keeping visitors to the camp at the main designated areas, well kept and clean. No sight of the actual living conditions beyond what they are being presented. 

The Government of Bangladesh has a strong stance on the Rohingya people in the country as being Myanmar nationals and since the camps opening in the early 1990's up to now there have been no laws made to protect and no official policy documents written to guide the humane and fair treatment of the refugees that they are hosting. The country has a history of forceful repatriation, sub standard living conditions as well as harsh treatment and persecution of the Rohingya people. Any strategies concocted by the GOB to deal with Myanmar refugees focuses on further sealing the border between the countries. Extra outposts and Barbed wire fences are more thought on then to thoughts help the development of the everyday life of the souls who live there seeking refuge.

The following is a reflection of what World Refugee Day means for one Rohingya refugee in Bangladesh, as he told RB News:

"Today is world refugee day, brother. Please pray for us to get a way to a solution. This cattle life has become a heavy burden for us for about 22 years now. Some foolish refugees enjoying the day. We think that this day is a grief day. I mean brother, if we enjoy the day the officers who are present from the UN may think that we are satisfied with this life. They will visit both Kutupalong and Nayapara camps but won't thoroughly look through them. There is a decorated stage that a UNHCR country representative and other officials from different countries would be lead to. The Bangladeshi NGOs selected five females and five males to sing songs and dance to show the officers. Make it look as if we are passing a happy life. 

For the refugees, they give out prizes such as bowls, glasses and jugs. This as people are forced to beg for food and have no safe water to drink. If any refugee stands to say something about water he/she will later be beaten in absence of the UNHCR, finding any fault by the dishonest engineer and Camp In-Charge and Police In-Charge. They have sent people to jail, fabricating cases against them. 

In 2002, a person who used to say things against them, he was chopped to pieces and loaded into a sack. They threw the sack from the top of a steep hill. So nobody tries to say anything since then. So on this day, as refugees get the opportunity to address the officials he must say infavour of the NGOs and government due to fear."

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are squat into two registered camps nearby the Myanmar Border. The number of people living there pale in comparison to the many hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who live just outside in makeshift unregistered camps and receive no aid while the government UN officials congratulate themselves as gracious hosts to an oppressed people with no place else to go.

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