The Imprisonment of the Make Shift Camp

There is no measurement to the amount of injustice the Rohingya people have endured and continue to endure. It seems that wherever they turn to for hope seems to shatter before their eyes; Burma has disowned them as a national 'people' so living in a state of constant fear for most of the Rohingyas was not an option- it is reported that 1 million out of the 3 million Rohingyas have fled Burma to seek a new home elsewhere.

Bangladesh is the country which most Rohingyas sought to for a new beginning and a chance to build their life again free from injustice - 250,000 fled to Bangladesh during the years 1978 and 1991 and only 28,000 of those are 'registered' refugees who live in the official refugee camps in the Cox Bazaar district of Nayapura and Kutupalong. The rest, the unregistered Rohingya are now made to live in the make shift camp - but is it through their own choice or has the Bangladeshi officials and government constructed life for the Rohingyas so hard that they had no choice?

How the make shift refugee camp was created

The unregistered refugees dispersed and dwelled among the local population and they were marginally vulnerable to being exploited and exposed to injustices however things took a turn for the worst in 2009 as the Rohingyas were at the centre of hatred and make shift camps were the only place of safety in the Rohingyas eyes, so most of them relocated to the makeshift camps. One makeshift camp was already created in the Leda village but since 2009 'as a consequence of eviction against self settled' Rohingyas, more and more of the unregistered refugees moved to the make shift camp and thus a new make shift camp in Kutupalong was created just opposite the official refugee camp. It seems that every move the unregistered refugees made was already preconceived and part of a greater plan constructed by the local officials, the government and the BDR (Bangladesh Border force) pieced together for an end goal of to get rid of the Rohingyas.

Big Brother is watching you

Xenophobia is one of the ways the government manoeuvred the Rohingya s every step as the Rohingyas made vital decisions not knowing that this is exactly what the government and local officials want them to do. Xenophobia is an extreme form of racism; its feeling is conjured inside and built upon from fear and paranoia of foreign people and made sure that the Rohingyas did not mix with the locals. The Bangladeshi officials created hysteria amongst the locals by using the media to make them reject the Rohingyas so that they had no choice but to move to the make shift camp because it is the only place they would feel they'll be 'accepted'. Once the Rohingyas made the decision to migrate to the make shift camp or were forced to move there after the massive crackdown operation, life did not get easier in the slightest.

The worst thing that could happen to a Rohingya person was being imprisoned or to be sent back to Burma; in one way or another both were happening. In the process of the crackdown, many were imprisoned however nothing could compare to how life was in the make shift camp, it was like prison but without any tangible constraints. If any point a Rohingya person wanted to leave the camp, they were punished or imprisoned.

Being sent back to Burma was more daunting than ever once they Rohingyas reached the make shift camp because of its close proximity to the border. BDR took it upon themselves to push back the Rohingyas over the border back to Burma despite it being an international law which condemns this known as the Non-Refoulement. The push backs started in late 2007 and it was reported that 2200 Rohingyas were forcibly pushed back to Burma between mid 2009 and early 2010- its puzzling to realise that no matter how hard life is in the make shift camp, they would not trade it for a day back in Burma, Despite the dire severity of life in the make shift camp and the they know of the daily sufferings they endure, Burma is the sole reason why they are in this position in the first place and so resentment towards Burma is skin deep.

Employment was another vital means which was controlled and made severely difficult; only way to make money was to get out of the camp which was near enough impossible as the local officials had placed a temporary checkpoint between Kutupalong and Teknaf, the next village in the district. The only other source of income was to collect firewood from the forest which access was controlled too. With money scarce, children and old women resort to begging to the opposite refugee camp.

For the Rohingyas the make a shift camp was the last resort but they felt it was the only 'safe' place that was left for them. Little did they know that this make shift camp would be a sort of modern day concentration camp where access to the most basic means was not made possible which quite possibly is the worse kind of imprisonment.


  1. Lewa C, The Arakan Project 11th February 2010, Unregistered Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh: crackdown, forced displacement and hunger, Bangkok

Images from Irrawaddy Publishing Group.