Rohingya Refugee Voices: “I think I will be here for a long time…”

Yasmine is a single mother of four young children living in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Now in her early thirties, Yasmine arrived in Bangladesh in October 2017, having been forcibly displaced from Myanmar as a result of the ongoing mass violence committed against the Rohingya by the country’s security forces. With nearly one million Rohingya now living in the refugee camps, the conditions have become increasingly cramped making Yasmine’s challenge of raising four young children all the more demanding. 

On top of poor living conditions and insufficient sanitation infrastructure within the camps, Rohingya adults are not allowed to work formally. This places extra pressure on parents, like Yasmine, to support their families with no source of income. Therefore, as a result of the overcrowded conditions and lack of employment and educational opportunities, Yasmine is often left feeling stressed and disheartened about her family’s future in Bangladesh and says she is yet to feel at home after nineteen months living in the camp.  

Hearing stories of Rohingya children going missing within the camp has also made Yasmine worry about the safety of her own children as she suspects these missing children have been killed. She is therefore apprehensive about leaving her children unattended during the evenings.

Despite Yasmine’s concerns within the camp, she is also sceptical of the Bangladeshi government’s plans to relocate the Rohingya to Bhasan Char, a remote island in the Bay of Bengal, as she is unwilling to move to the potentially uninhabitable island with her young children.  

“I am afraid to go to Bhasan Char because I heard from people that there are ‘many rivers’ around Bhasan Char.”

Yasmine is equally resistant towards repatriation to Myanmar due to her distrust of Myanmar’s authorities. Rohingya experiences of military brutality are not easily forgotten, and Yasmine has little faith in the promises that Rohingya will now be granted rights upon their return to Myanmar.

In addition, these experiences which caused thousands to flee Myanmar have left many victims of trauma. For Yasmine, the level of psychological support she was offered since her arrival to Bangladesh has not been sufficient as she often feels overwhelmed but is unable to voice her concerns.   

 “I think I will be here for a long time…”

As political discussions remain unresolved it seems the future for Yasmine and her children outside their camp is uncertain. What is important to Yasmine now is that they remain safe and gain access to more educational and employment opportunities.

Disclaimer: All names of persons in the Migrant Voices series have been replaced with pseudonyms to preserve the migrants’ anonymity. Yasmine’s story is based on Xchange’s Rohingya Survey 2019.

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