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Sunday, February 25, 2018

The unwanted: Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

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Children with henna-painted hands play outside mud-walled hovels with damaged roofs in one of Bangladesh's biggest refugee camps.

They're among 276,000 Rohingya people living in camps and informal settlements in and around Cox's Bazar, according to estimates by the United Nation Human Rights Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Many of them fled their homes across the border in Myanmar's Rakhine State last year, after military "clearance operations" that followed attacks on police.

The government says around 100 people were killed in the four-month operation, human rights groups say the total is far higher and could amount to genocide.

Of the thousands of people now crammed in camps in Bangladesh, only 12% are registered refugees with access to education, which means most of these children will only play until they are strong enough to be put to work, perhaps breaking bricks or planting rice.

"We are a small country with a huge population," said Najnin Sarwar Kaberi, organizing secretary for the ruling Awami League party in Cox's Bazar. If the refugees "settle here permanently, it will increase unemployment so we can't give them the same opportunities as our citizens."

Rohingya Muslims are regularly referred to as among the world's most persecuted people.

They're not included on the list of 135 recognized national ethnic groups under Myanmar's 1982 Citizenship Law.
The ruling Myanmar government considers them Bengali, but the Bangladesh government doesn't recognize them as such.
With no country to call home, they are officially stateless.

For decades, outbreaks of violence have forced thousands to flee, many across the border to Bangladesh. From there, some move onto India and Malaysia, with the most recent waves coming in 2012 and again in 2016.

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