Thousands of undocumented Rohingya in Bangladesh are beyond the protection of the UNHCR. Several thousand have been forced to live in desperate conditions in a small stretch of marshland between the main north-south road and the Naff River in southern Bangladesh.
Unrecognized and unwanted in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh government has permitted little or no humanitarian assistance to be given to the thousands of undocumented Rohingya living in southern Bangladesh.
Discriminatory citizenship laws imposed by the Burmese government have systematically stripped over one million Rohingya in the Rakhine state of western Burma of their citizenship. Blind in one eye after being beaten in the head during forced labor, the man fled from Burma in the mid 1990's and is one of an estimated 200,000 stateless Rohingya now living in the southern part of neighboring Bangladesh.
In Burma, mosques and graveyards continue to be closed and demolished to make way for military installments. Men and young boys fill a small mosque in the makeshift camp in Teknaf for Friday afternoon call to prayer.
Because the Rohingya are refused refugee status by Bangladesh, they are unable to seek protection by the UNHCR. Many say police occasionally raid the camp late at night and arrest men and young boys. After a raid in March 2006, these women haven't seen or heard from their husbands.
Prior to May 2006, the Rohingya in the camp had no access to medical care. Because of malnutrition, poor sanitation and unclean water, infant mortality is extremely high. More than one third of the children in the makeshift camp are malnourished. A mother holds her child who has been sick for weeks.
Most Rohingya rely on farming to survive, yet the Burmese authorities arbitrarily seize their land and belongings in order to expand for the local Burmese or to construct buildings, highways and installments for the military. After having their land seized and unable to travel outside of their town to find work, these men felt they had no choice but to leave Burma for Bangladesh.
Though the Rohingya continue to be marginalized socially, economically and politically in Burma, Bangladesh claims they are illegal economic migrants. Unwanted and routinely harassed in Bangladesh, local businessmen exploit them for cheap labor. Men lucky enough to find employment on fishing boats or in the salt fields earn less than one USD a day.
A group of women walk with their children into Teknaf where they will beg for food. Most of the women in the group have not seen their husbands in months.
Half of the camp population are children born in Bangladesh. Because they are not recognized as refugees by the Bangladesh government, little or no humanitarian assistance is permitted to be given directly to the undocumented Rohingya. As a result, the children do not receive any form of education.