Fire Destroys 2,000 Settlements at Rohingya Refugee Camp

Photo Credit: Mohammad Tauheed

By Mihir Shenoy
Staff Writer

Kutupalong, the world’s largest refugee camp, located in Bangladesh, has once again caught fire. More than 2,000 settlements have been burned to the ground, and approximately 12,000 of the 700,000 Rohingya refugees at this camp have been displaced. Additionally, 21 schools and 35 mosques have been destroyed, as well as two water networks. Bangladeshi police are investigating the source of the fire, while the community begins to salvage what remains from the ruins. 

Fires have become common in Kutupalong, as settlements are typically made of flammable materials like bamboo, and structures are densely packed. In 2021, a fire took the lives of 15 refugees and displaced about 45,000, and this was the largest of the 150 total recorded fires in that year. While fires do not make headlines from their relatively low death toll, the repeated damage to essential businesses, healthcare facilities, schools, and religious centers bring hardship to people that have already been marginalized.

The Rohingya have sought repatriation to their native country Myanmar since 2017, but hopes for that have deteriorated since the 2021 overthrow by the national military. In 2017, the same military engaged in “clearance operations” against the Rohingya, which included systematic arson, rape, and murder, resulting in more than 200 villages in Myanmar being burned to the ground. As the Burmese military continues to use rape and mass killings to consolidate control over Myanmar, the Rohingya are forced to endure the harsh conditions of refugee camps, or take dangerous boat voyages to countries like Indonesia and Sri Lanka, running the risk of dying at sea or being trafficked. 

Despite the worsening situation in Myanmar and in refugee camps, international aid has dwindled, and refugees’ rations have been cut by 17%. Although the United States formally recognized the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya as genocide in 2022, much of the world has lost interest in the ongoing refugee crisis in Bangladesh and civil war in Myanmar. If this pattern of declining concern for the Rohingya were to continue, the Burmese military will have effectively achieved its goal, as the junta considers the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Hate speech, an important tool in amassing public support for clearance operations, could be seen as politically effective. The inhumane condition of the Rohingya represents a failure in recognizing the importance of supporting people that have had their communities destroyed multiple times over. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: