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Rohingya refugees find safe haven in Kashmir

Children in a queue to fetch drinking water. (Photo: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera)

By Showkat Shafi
December 30, 2014

Hundreds of persecuted Rohingya families have found refuge in Kashmir after fleeing Buddhist attacks in Myanmar.

Jammu, Indian-administered Kashmir - Tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees are searching for a new beginning across South Asia after being forced to leave Myanmar following persecution at the hands of Buddhists. 

Hundreds of Rohingya families have found refuge in the winter capital of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir state, living in temporary homes made up of branches and shrubs and covered with plastic sheets. 

According to United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), thousands of unregistered refugees are living in elsewhere in India.

The Rohingya are among an estimated 10 million stateless people worldwide. 

Local landowners charge about $9 a month for each jughi, or hut. Children are found playing around heaps of garbage, and a lack of water, sanitation and healthcare facilities pose serious threats.

Mohammad Rafik, 48, told Al Jazeera: "We have been forced to be scrap dealers as there are no employment avenues available. A large number of refugees here are unregistered as there is a long process to get your name registered with UNHCR who provide an registration card."

Children support their families by collecting and selling recyclable material, and some women work in walnut factories up to 12 hours a day, cracking shells and removing nuts.

Saddam Hussain, 39, a labourer living in a makeshift camp, said: "We have seen our life being devastated and ruined, but we want our kids to live a better life and become good humans. [Don't] we all seek better education, healthcare, and a better future for our children?"

Hundreds of refugee families from Myanmar now live in temporary homes across the city of Jammu. (Photo: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera)
Children inside a makeshift school in a Rohingya refugee camp in Jammu. (Photo: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera)
Mohammad Rafik, 46, was driven out of Myanmar after an escalation of violence against the community. (Photo: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera)
'It is not easy to get registered with UNHCR. It requires a number of meetings and visits to their office in New Delhi along with family members, and most of us don't even have money for the journey,' says Abdu Rahman, 23, who stays in a tent with his wife and two children. (Photo: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera)
A woman prepares a meal outside her shelter in a refugee camp in Jammu city. (Photo: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera)
Children living in the refugee camps have nothing to do because of a lack of formal educational facilities. (Photo: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera)
A school for Myanmar refugees was established by a local NGO, but it is impossible to get children into government institutions. (Photo: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera)
Children are more prone to disease since no immunisation and vaccination campaigns have been organised. (Photo: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera)
Rohingya offer prayers inside a temporary mosque in a refugee camp in the city of Jammu. (Photo: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera)
With no water and sanitation facilities, the camps are at a high health risk. (Photo: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera)

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Rohingya Exodus