Bangladesh destroys 3,000 shops belonging to Rohingya Muslim refugees

Authorities say ‘illegal shops’ were removed as the Rohingyas need shelters being built at same site

Sravasti Dasgupta
Wednesday 05 January 2022 13:52 GMT
Boys lean on a razed shop at Kutupalong refugee camp
Boys lean on a razed shop at Kutupalong refugee camp (AFP via Getty Images)

Authorities in Bangladesh have bulldozed over 3,000 Rohingya shops in the last month calling them “illegal”.

In a statement to AFP, the country’s deputy refugee commissioner Shamsud Douza confirmed the figure and said that the “illegal shops” had been cleared as “the number of Rohingya is increasing”.

“And they need shelters. We are already building sheds on the premises,” he added.

While Mr Douza said that relief groups were ensuring the refugees were still getting daily necessities, members of the Rohingya groups said that the shop owners are struggling to survive.

“Rohingya families are large and the amount of food ration given to them is decreasing. Many families used to rely on the income from the shops,” said Khin Maung, a Rohingya community leader and rights activist.

Bangladesh has received international praise for taking in Rohingyas, a stateless Muslim minority from Myanmar who fled after a military clampdown in 2017 that prompted an international genocide investigation.

At present about 850,000 members of the Rohingya community live in various displacement camps in Bangladesh.

With their makeshift shops demolished, Mr Maung said that the lives of tens of thousands have been affected in these refugee camps.

“That shop was my last hope. How do I run a family now? There is no way out except to die. I am helpless,” said Salim Ullah, whose grocery shop was demolished.

He added that feeding his family of eight would now be a struggle.

Amnesty international officials said that the demolition could leave the Rohingya refugees more vulnerable.

“Demolition of shops and closure of community-led schools … aggravate tension and frustration,” said Saad Hammadi of Amnesty International.

He urged authorities to “protect the rights and dignity of the Rohingya refugees by involving them in the decisions including their right to earn a living”.

In November 2021, the Bangladesh government started relocating hundreds of Rohingya refugees from Chattogram to an island in the Bay of Bengal called Bhashan Char Island.

The move came despite concerns from rights groups over the conditions on the vulnerable low-lying island and that no refugees should be sent forcibly.

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