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Friday, April 16, 2021

Rohingya Refugee Camps Are Being Set On Fire

VICE
By Jaishree Kumar
ROHINGYA REFUGEES SEARCH FOR VALUABLES AMID THE DEBRIS DAYS AFTER A FIRE BURNT THEIR HOME AT A REFUGEE CAMP IN COX'S BAZAR ON MARCH 25, 2021.
PHOTO: MUNIR UZ ZAMAN / AFP

Several small fires have engulfed dozens of make-shift homes in Rohingya refugee camps in India and Bangladesh in the last two weeks and it is unclear who is causing them.

These incidents follow a large fire that broke out on March 22 in Bangladesh at Cox’s Bazar. The fire ravaged through 10,000 make-shift homes, killing at least 15 people and displacing 45,000. Investigations into the cause of that fire are still underway. The UN allocated $14 million dollars to help rehabilitate the refugees left homeless by the fire in the world’s largest refugee camp.

Since then, there have been regular incidents of small fires in Cox’s Bazar; the last one was reported on April 12.

Shafiur Rahaman
(25-03-2021)
“The frequent fires have left the refugee community traumatised and unsure about the future,” said Zia Naing, a 27-year-old Rohingya refugee who’s been living in a Cox’s Bazar camp since 2017. “Our lives are hanging between the Myanmar military and the fires in refugee camps. It’s a terrifying situation to be in.” he added. Naing and his 11 family members lost their makeshift home in the March 22 fire.

There are about a million Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar. The Rohingya, a mostly-Muslim minority ethnic group in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar fled the 2017 military crackdown, which the UN has called a “textbook case of genocide”.A MAN CARRIES HIS CHARRED BELONGINGS DAYS AFTER A FIRE AT A ROHINGYA REFUGEE CAMP ON MARCH 24, 2021. PHOTO: MUNIR UZ ZAMAN / AFP

Two fires also hit the camps in January, which left thousands homeless and gutted four UNICEF schools. On March 22, Amnesty International’s South Asia campaigner, Saad Hammadi, tweeted: “frequency of fire in the camps is too coincidental, especially when outcomes of previous investigations into the incidents are not known and they keep repeating”.

“Multiple smaller fires have been reported across camps in Kutupalong and Nayapara in the past weeks. This is a very worrying trend. Refugees have managed to put out the fires quickly with only a limited number of families affected. Investigations by camp authorities are underway.” said Mostafa Mohammad Sazzad Hossain, a Public Information Officer from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) told VICE World News. Kutupalong and Nayapara are the largest camps in Cox’s Bazar.

A MAN CARRIES HIS CHARRED BELONGINGS DAYS AFTER A FIRE AT A ROHINGYA REFUGEE CAMP ON MARCH 24, 2021. PHOTO: MUNIR UZ ZAMAN / AFP


On April 5, a refugee camp in Jammu, India witnessed fires that destroyed 18 homes. In 2018, a large fire in New Delhi’s Rohingya camp destroyed 44 homes and left over 225 refugees with nowhere to go. There are about 40,000 Rohingya refugees in India according to UNHCR.


By Pari Saikia ( 25-02-2021)



A representative from the Rohingya Human Rights Initiative (ROHRIngya) based in New Delhi, India added that the fires have put the refugees in an even more vulnerable position. “The community has been really distressed. We received WhatsApp videos from Bangladesh on the day of the Cox’s Bazar fire, the videos showed miscreants torching the camp and shelters but it’s hard to identify them or verify these videos.”

Abdul Kalam Kalamiya, 27, is a Rohingya refugee who has been in India since 2012. Kalamiya’s parents live in Bangladesh while he works in Jammu, India. “I am privileged since I have a job as an interpreter and translator which brings me some income, others are not in the same situation.”

Kalamiya has been leading relief efforts in the Jammu camp with the help of initiatives like Rohingya. He was not present when the fire started but later interviewed eyewitnesses. “They were fast asleep when the fire started, before they could realise what was happening, several shelters had already burnt to the ground.” The affected refugees were then shifted to other shelters but the damage was already done.

Kalamiya described that several of them chose to move to other regions of India, “With the little they had saved up, they moved to other regions in India like Hyderabad. The fire had traumatised them badly. They decided the camp was no longer a safe place to live in.”

 By DANISH RAZA ( 14.12.2021 )
Groups like Rohingya are working with their team of volunteers to aid relief, “The Jammu camp is much smaller, we have five volunteers there who are helping the community out,” said the representative from Rohiningya.

Several refugees in Bangladesh told VICE World News that they could not escape the fires because of barbed wire fences around their camps. Bangladesh started installing a barbed wire fence in 2019 that they plan to extend to 88 miles. Bangladesh’s government has cited security as the reason behind the barbed wire.

Bangladesh has defended its use of fences despite the backlash after the fires. “I don’t believe these fences have hampered rescue efforts. There were enough roads in the camps and the hundreds of our officials, policemen and volunteers were there to rescue them,” Shah Rezwan Hayat, Bangladesh’s refugee commissioner told AFP news agency.

Zia confirmed that aid by the UNHCR and other humanitarian groups has reached the camp but refugees still live with anxiety. “Small fires happen nearly everyday. I’m scared to fall asleep at night because of the regular fires, we cannot afford to lose everything now,” he added.


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