Over 75,000 Rohingya refugees are homeless after arson fires in recent weeks have swept areas around their camps in Bangladesh. Thousands have been injured and many have been found dead.
The police have arrested and charged several Bangladeshi youths for starting the fire. There is a feeling among the local community that the fires are being started with the intention of driving out the Rohingya.
Free Burma Rangers has provided a report from the camps.
The news comes as President Joe Biden has disbanded a religious freedom commission that had been working on behalf of the Rohingya and other religious minorities being persecuted across Southeast Asia leaving many of them without a voice on the world stage.
The Free Burma Rangers organization says that the latest fire broke out on April 2, 2021 in the early morning in Balukhali Camp 10, one of the many sections of the sprawling refugee camps located near Cox’s Bazar.
“The FBR Rohingya team reached the incident at 9 am on April 3 and began to help the people. The fire started in a Rohingya shop and quickly spread to the other 15 closely packed stores. All the stores including the merchandise inside were burned completely to ash. There were five Rohingya people inside when the stores caught fire; three of them died and two were seriously injured.
The dead have been identified as Foyazul Islam (22 years old), Md Ayes (18 years old), and Anser Ullah (15 years old), all from Camp 10, Balukhali. The cause of the fire has yet to be determined but the police department is conducting an investigation.
In mid-March, news of small fires was being reported but these would soon prove to be precursors to a large fire that occurred on 22 March 2021. This large fire devastated camp Balukhali, Camp 8w, part of the sprawling complex of camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The fire started at 3 pm and was completely out of control until 8 pm that night. Approximately
10,000 shelters were completely destroyed leaving 85,000 thousand people homeless. There were a large number of children reported missing and the total number of lives lost in the fire has yet to be determined. In addition to the lives lost, market shops, schools, a mosque, a hospital, and food centers were all destroyed.
The FBR Rohingya team quickly arrived to help by evacuating people, helping carry their belongings, and partnering with the local fire department to fight the fire. The team returned to the camp on 24 March 2021 and reported that the fire left five people dead and 570 people injured, with 440 people missing. The total number of displaced individuals is 75,000 people, about 10,000 families. Many children have been reported missing and the village leader reported that the barbed wire fences surrounding the camp prevented people from fleeing. On March 31, 2021, the FBR Rohingya team distributed mosquito nets and helped a total of 400 families in Camp 8.
The FBR Rohingya team has been interviewing more individuals in an attempt to substantiate the claims of arson. The group says they’re going door to door and distributing goods in an effort to help those who have been affected by the fire.
FBR is not the only NGO working to help those devastated and displaced by the fire: BD Red Crescent Society, IOM, World Vision, Plan International, MSF, Turkish Aid, and BRAC are providing food aid and tents.