This advocacy update exposes the ongoing human rights violations that Rohingya refugees are facing in camps located in Bangladesh near the border with Myanmar. Amnesty International researchers conducted interviews with almost 100 refugees living near Cox’s Bazar between 11 and 24 February 2019. In this update, refugee testimonies are used to illustrate the impact that these violations are having on their daily lives as well as their future aspirations for their children. This update identifies specific changes required to restrictive regulatory measures, as well as in relation to the provision of essential services. Amnesty International calls on the government of Bangladesh to move beyond the emergency response phase and to develop a longer-term plan, with the support of international donor governments and in consultation with the Rohingya refugees, grounded in human rights law and refugee protection.
Nearly a million refugees from Myanmar (mostly from the ethnic and religious Rohingya minority from Rakhine State), have settled in camps in Bangladesh, around a two-hour drive from the beachside town of Cox’s Bazar. From the Leda and Nayapara camps, which are those closest to the border, refugees can look across the Naf River to Myanmar, their home country which they were forced to flee.
Since August 2017, when around 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh due to extreme violence at the hands of Myanmar’s military, a major humanitarian operation has been underway. Involving the combined efforts of government, international and national NGOs, various UN agencies and other stakeholders, the humanitarian response has ensured that refugees have been offered urgent humanitarian assistance on arrival in the country. However, almost two years after they fled Myanmar, refugees are still living in basic shelters with emergency rations, unable to rebuild their lives or enjoy full protection of their human rights. More than 600,000 people live in Kutupalong, now the largest refugee camp in the world in terms of population. As far as the eye can see, bamboo and plastic sheet shelters stretch across the horizon. The thick layer of dust covering the bright orange plastic sheeting masks the flimsy nature of the shelters, especially when viewed from a distance. From the hilltops of Kutupalong, rolling hills covered in shelters can be seen in every direction: the full extent of the tightly packed camp and the number of people living in it are overwhelming.