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Bangladesh: “Engage with us to find a durable solution”

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By San thai Shin in Cox’s Bazar

Since 2021 big fire incidents have been rife in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. Many of us lost livelihood opportunities such as shops, as well as belongings which we brought from Myanmar. On top of that, Bangladesh’s government put further restrictions on our livelihood options, access to education and the right to freedom of movement and association.

Any form of financial transaction is forbidden in the camps. As a result, security officials often accuse Rohingya refugees of operating criminal gangs for having mobile phones with internet access and mobile financial systems installed on their phones. Some Rohingya refugees avoid detention by paying money to the officials.

We refugees are living in limbo in Bangladesh with neither the opportunity to return to our homes in Myanmar nor have a way to live life peacefully in Bangladesh.

At this current state, we have lost the expectation that the international community will do anything to truly help. We face enormous hardship in the refugee camps. Nearly half a million Rohingya children hang in the balance with limited primary level access to education. We have no security for our lives, no means for livelihood. To move anywhere outside the refugee camps, we need written order from the camp authority. We are just a monsoon’s landslide away from perishing under the muds.

On the top of it, we do not know how we can ever return to our homes. We are neither safe in the refugee camps nor in Arakan [in Myanmar]. Our people are losing their lives to gang violence in the refugee camps, in environmental calamity, or by taking dangerous attempts to migrate to other countries through the deadly seas and other means.

Sadly, our options are so limited. Yet, there would be some hope if we had access to education. At least we can strive to improve the fate of our children by doing something better for them. Here, too, in the refugee camps there is so much restriction. We are detained by the police for operating community schools.

Our people deserve to have a better life. Bangladesh has given us a second chance to survive , but what happens after this? Are we supposed to live in a standstill in the camps with nowhere to go and nothing to do? Being stuck in one place with no qualitative change in our lives for five years is no less cruel than the discrimination we faced in Myanmar.

We are a people who have been denied and deprived of our rights at home for decades. The way out of this situation is not by looking away from us or pushing us away to a remote island but by engaging with us to find a durable solution.

San thai Shin is a researcher and a volunteer teacher and prefers to write under his Burmese name in order to speak freely. The views expressed in this blog are entirely his own.