Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Rohingya suffering continues after fleeing

 Rohingya refugee children from Myanmar are working punishing hours for paltry pay in Bangladesh, with some suffering beatings and sexual assault, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has found. Reuters corroborated some of the findings.

About 450,000 children, or 55 percent of the refugee population, live in teeming settlements near the border with Myanmar after fleeing. Most of the refugees have arrived in the past two and a half months after attacks. Across Bangladesh's refugee settlements, Reuters saw children wandering muddy lanes alone and aimlessly, or sitting listlessly outside tents. Many children begged along roadsides.

The IOM said children were targeted by labour agents and encouraged to work by their destitute parents amid widespread malnutrition and poverty in the camps. Rohingya boys and girls as young as seven years old were confirmed working outside the settlements, according to the findings. 

Boys work on farms, construction sites and fishing boats, as well as in tea shops and as rickshaw drivers. Girls typically work as maids and nannies for Bangladeshi families, either in the nearby resort town of Cox's Bazar or in Chittagong, Bangladesh's second-largest city.

Most female Rohingya refugees "experienced sexual harassment, rape and being forced to marry the person who raped her", the IOM said. Many parents also pressure their daughters to marry early, for protection and for financial stability, according to the IOM findings. Some child brides are as young as 11. But many women only became "second wives," the IOM said. Second wives are frequently divorced quickly and "abandoned without any further economic support".

Muhammad Zubair, said he was offered 250 taka per day but ended up with only 500 taka ($6) for 38 days work building roads. "It was hard work, laying bricks on the road," he said. He described how he was verbally abused by his employers when he asked for more money and was told to leave. Zubair then took a job in a tea shop for a month, putting in two shifts per day from 6am to past midnight, broken by a four-hour rest period in the afternoon. He said he wasn't allowed to leave the shop and was only permitted to speak to his parents by phone once. "When I wasn't paid, I escaped," he said. "I was frightened because I thought the owner, the master, would come here with other people and take me again."

The Inter Sector Coordination Group, which oversees UN agencies and charities, said this month it had documented 2,462 unaccompanied and separated children in the camps. The actual number was "likely to be far higher", it said. A preliminary survey by the UNHCR and Bangladesh's Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission has found that 5 percent of households - or 3,576 families - were headed by a child.

Kateryna Ardanyan, an IOM anti-trafficking specialist, said exploitation had become "normalised" in the camps.
"Human traffickers usually adapt faster to the situation than any other response mechanism can. It's very important we try to do prevention." Ardanyan said. "Funding dedicated to protecting Rohingya men, women and children from exploitation and abuse is urgently needed." 

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