Destruction and devastation . . .
On Sunday, a large fire tore through a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, the border district in Bangladesh where a million people live in refugee camps. The fire hit Camp 16 and destroyed around 1,200 shelters and left more than 5,000 people homeless. The cause of the fire remains unknown, and although it was brought under control within two hours, refugees were forced to break through barbed wire fencing to reach safety. No casualties have been recorded. In March 2021, a devastating fire in the same camp left 15 people dead and about 50,000 homeless.
Decades-long Rohingya refugee crisis . . .
Within the world’s largest refugee settlement, most camp residents are from the persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority and escaped Myanmar following the 2017 military crackdown that the United Nations described as being carried out with “genocidal intent.” Successive waves of displacement of the Rohingya began in the 1990s and Bangladesh has been praised for taking in refugees. At the peak of the crisis, thousands were crossing into Bangladesh daily. Fleeing Rohingya have been seeking refuge and resettlement in other nearby countries as well, including Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Nepal.
Those displaced: Where to next?
The large number of displaced Rohingya refugees in a very small area in Bangladesh has resulted in horrific living conditions. It is a complicated situation for Bangladesh to manage and one in which there are no easy solutions. Dhaka’s attempts to resume moving Rohingya to the remote island of Bhasan Char in the Bay of Bengal has received pushback and criticism from the international community. Yet Rohingya refugees remain caught between precarious conditions in camps in Bangladesh and a homeland again ruled by the military, where safe repatriation is nearly impossible. International organizations in the region are co-ordinating to provide those affected by the fire with food, health, protection, water, sanitation, and hygiene needs. For those left homeless due to the fire, the future now seems more uncertain than ever before.
- Al Jazeera: Fleeing violence in Myanmar, thousands camp along Thai border river
- The Guardian: Thousands homeless as fire sweeps through Rohingya refugee camp
- UNHCR: Rohingya Emergency
Canadian Red Cross: Myanmar Refugee Crisis Appeal