The scale number of exodus Rohingya refugees has left them displaced and shattered owing to the massive fire, blazed through the Rohingya refugee camp in the Cox Bazar based in Bangladesh. One of the foremost and vast camps in the world.
One of the most devastating situations took place in the Rohingya camp, which razed people and their source of income through this massive fire. On the very afternoon of 22 March 2021 In Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, a fatal fire broke out in the refugee camps of Kutupalong Balukhali. It lasted until the beginning of March 23rd. About 48,000 refugees were displaced, 9,500 refugees, and over 1600 facilities were destroyed including hospitals, distribution points, learning centers, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR).
Above and beyond, there have been 11 confirmed deaths so far, 102 currently wounded, 339 unlisted for, some 45,000 displaced refugees (medical care for 400 others so far). Over, 95,000 shelters have been upheaval or wrecked and over 1,500 facilities including hospitals, distributors, and learning centers suffered damage. The destruction of one UNHCR center
They consumed the shelters and personal belongings of thousands of Rohingya refugee families and essential facilities in the camps. Camp 9 is virtually destroyed and Camps, 8E, 8W, 10, and 11 are heavily impacted. They left thousands of people temporarily displaced. Deaths have been reported. There gutted shelters, distribution, nutrition and learning centers, WASH infrastructure, and key medical facilities.
The fire started in the camp 8W and within a short period, it spread to Camps 8E, 9, and 10 which not only ripped off half of the camp but also caused damage to every important thing of a refugee, in whatever way they could take away their things with themselves.
With that barbed wire, set up and fenced around the camp have been also one of the darkest episodes for the Rohingya people residing there, due to that wire, people were unable to escape or cross or were trapped that barbed wire, few were injured due to that wire which was not only restricting their freedom of right to movement and could not even run away from that area, were trapped & cutting through that wire so they could escape the wire by climbing over from the blaze that had ripped and spread through camp damaging all the settlements.
- The tents in a ramshackle state, squatted are more congested, they need to be build up in gap and distance, so they could provide some air and privacy, there needs to be space among the people, it can also lead to suffocation, and maybe not having that equal space. It can lead to gender-based violence.
- The fencing that has been set up around the camp, should be removed since not in this tragedy but any future event restricts the right to freedom of movement. Through this fencing, not only traps them in the camp itself but a clear violation of the right that is stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 26 of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
- The urgent need for COVID measures needs to be addressed since the blaze has caused so much damage and there is chaos among displaced people, needs to be prevented and protected from becoming the victims of COVID due to the enormous crowd together and needs to be vaccinated as soon as possible, otherwise, it would affect the entire community.
- A document and investigation should take place leading to track the people who have escaped and got displaced due to fire, there needs to be tracking of people through survey and investigation to find out the people.
- Everyone should be provided with Psychological support who have been majorly impacted by the massive fire.
- Conducting awareness-raising sessions on child protection risks such as child trafficking and gender-based violence, fire safety, and general assistance
- Besides, at least 8 temporary health centers immediately need to be set up, with coordination with other countries, who could come forward and help via donating the amount to build up the centers, shelters, and UNHCR registration centers back.
- The other developed and developing countries who have enough financial stability like the UK, U.S., and Australia or New Zealand and other neighboring countries of Bangladesh should come forward & together to financially support the host country for re-building up the structures back.
- UNHCR has been aiding other agencies’ provisions of medical supplies including IOM for their health partners in affected camps.
- UNHCR health facilities have provided care to 49 refugees injured by the fire.
- UNHCR coordinated with other volunteer organizations to provide key message and distributed messaging on fire safety, first aid, and response
- UNHCR partners have provided psychosocial support to more than 4,000 affected refugees.
- UNHCR has increased IOM assistance with coordination of on-the-ground response, ensuring that vulnerable families, elderly refugees, and people with disabilities have fair access to protection, services, information, and assistance. Another priority is to reduce gender-based violence risks by raising awareness and monitoring.
- There is surety of water and provided the sanitation facilities to the refugees by giving them cans and also the construction of 26 emergency latrines
- The Protection teams also disseminate crucial information on the response coordination and the available services with a focus on extremely vulnerable individuals. IOM Protection team supported 2,180 people in the affected camps with the GBV Protection services.
2017 exodus the culmination of decades of restrictive policies in Myanmar which have stripped Rohingya of their rights over generation denied them an identity and driven them from their homes. There is corroborated evidence of gruesome and roughshod level abuses against the Rohingya and the scorched-earth clearance of their village in the north Rakhine state.
Over decades, government policies have dismantled Rohingya of citizenship and enforced an apartheid-like system where they are marooned and marginalized.
However, after the abuse faced by them, they fled and came to Bangladesh wherein the country opened the gates for them and took them in, Southern Bangladesh has now swollen and bulging refugee camps with the population of a large city yet having very little basic infrastructure.
Resettlement is a tool to provide international protection and meet the specific needs of refugees whose life, liberty, safety, health, or other fundamental rights are at risk in the country where they have sought refuge.
On the other hand, it has erected at least 28 km of barbed wire fencing and watching over around the largest part of the camps. Due to this fencing, it refrains them from going out even in an emergency or normally to seek basic aid. No other person is allowed to come in, it is a clear violation of their right. It restricts their freedom of movement. Freedom of movement, however, is also a key right of refugees within their host -country. International covenant on civil and political rights article 12, article 26 of the 1951 convention provides that states shall afford refugees the right to choose their place of residence within the territory and to move freely within the state.
In the meantime, Article 28 obliges state parties, except as a matter of urgency, to issue travel documents to allow them to travel outside the state. But the IOM has long entrusted a major role in refugee affairs to Bangladesh as neither a party to the 1951 Convention or the 1967 protocol. However, this closing limited the right of the refugee not only to violate their rights but also to restrict aid and access to essential services.
It was challenging and incredibly difficult for them to evade or run out throughout this course of fire, because of this fencing around. It was tough to evacuate from these fences around. It created a backlog of people leaving the camps. With this fire, not able to hide or avoid these fences. An investigation team should be set up to investigate the cause of the fire which took away 11 lives.
In any future event, before that, the country should remove the fences, but have security, not too harsh. So, at least the Rohingya people can have an access to the basic necessities and aid. They should be equally treated and have the freedom to move the same as the other citizens of the country without any collateral damage or violence. It is their basic right, we need to be respecting that and acknowledging their right’s not stripped of them.
Legal Researcher & Content Writer – Intern, Act for Displaced
A recent third-year B.A. LLB Law Learner at Symbiosis Law School, Noida. I am self-determined, meticulous, hard-working, committed, and passionate. While I have predilections in the field of Human Rights and advocacy.