In Summary
  • 520,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar and camped in Kutupalong in Bangladesh.

  • The refugee camps in Bangladesh are overcrowded.

  • They are not allowed to work or leave the camps. But some bribe police for trips outside the camps, while others get work as black market labourers.

KUTUPALONG

Hasina Begum's earliest memory is of watching the jungle cut down to expand the camp in Bangladesh that is the only home the 31-year-old Rohingya refugee has ever known.

Begum is one of about 300,000 Rohingya who escaped turmoil in Myanmar 26 years ago before the latest eruption of violence brought another half a million refugees to Bangladesh, pushing already overcrowded camps to breaking point.

REFUGEE CAMPS

She was just five when her family fled persecution of the Muslim minority in Myanmar and has become trapped in the poverty of the refugee camps.

"My children sometimes ask me what their future will be. I don't know what to tell them," said the widowed mother of four in her dark, damp hut in Kutupalong camp near the Myanmar border.

"There is no happiness here," she said.

"If we had a decent house and enough to eat it would be wonderful. But we live in a camp, there is not enough to eat, so really there is no happiness here."

CROWDED

The influx of about 520,000 Rohingya in the past six weeks has made the situation even worse, overturning the environment and human eco-system in Kutupalong, where elephants once roamed.

The elephants are gone, trees and any other plant life have been razed to make way for the tidal wave of humanity that has taken over the hills around what was once a tiny village on the Bangladesh border with Myanmar.

Hafez Ahmed, who sells bamboo on the roadside, arrived at Kutupalong 27 years ago. "When I came here, it was an area of green hills, uninhabited, covered with jungle. There were elephants here," he said.

UNWANTED

Page 1 of 2