Thousands of Rohingya children who live in refugee camps in Bangladesh are forced to work in harsh conditions, sometimes even carrying heavy materials on construction sites.

On August 25, 2017, the military junta of Myanmar unleashed a wave of violence on the Rohingya ethnic minority in northern Rakhine state, rendering more than 710,000 Rohingya Muslims homeless and forcing them to take refuge in the neighbouring country, Bangladesh. 

In so-called “clearance operations,” 24,000 Rohingya Muslims were killed by Myanmarese forces, with 34,000 injured after being thrown into fires. 

Rohingya refugee children work on a rice field at the Palongkhali refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh December 23, 2017.
Rohingya refugee children work on a rice field at the Palongkhali refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh December 23, 2017. (Reuters)

Three years later, the Rohingya diaspora is determined to retrieve their rights as citizens.

Currently, nearly 860,000 Rohingyan people are living in refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar District - 55 percent are children

They have been experiencing physical violence, psychosocial trauma, sexual violence and been forced to work for a living.

Rohingya boys sort fish as they work in a wholesale fish market near a refugee camp in Teknaf, August 19, 2011.
Rohingya boys sort fish as they work in a wholesale fish market near a refugee camp in Teknaf, August 19, 2011. (Reuters)

Under stressful and uncertain living conditions, Rohingya children suffer from a lack of education.

Apart from the efforts of some NGOs to offer an education in camps, Rohingya children are prevented from attending school.

For example, more than 145,000 Rohingya refugee children in south-eastern Bangladesh attend UNICEF-supported learning centres in 2018. 

Two Rohingya refugee children work on the roof of a shelter in Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, October 27, 2017.
Two Rohingya refugee children work on the roof of a shelter in Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, October 27, 2017. (Reuters)

Given the desperate need to take on paid work to support their families, the children are often found to be working in harsh conditions, even carrying heavy materials on construction sites.

According to Malta-based Xchange Foundation’s 2019 “Lost Childhood” report, child labour has remained one of the most important problems among Rohingya refugees where 300,000 of which are between the ages of three and 14. 

Despite the Bangladesh Labour Act(2006), which targets child labour, and the Education Act (2016), that brings compulsory education until the equivalent of eighth grade, or 14 years old, most of the Rohingya children cannot benefit from these protective laws.

Rohingya refugee Rabia Khatun, 33, mother of Nur Hafes, washes utensils as her children stand outside their shelter at Palong Khali refugee camp, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, October 27, 2017.
Rohingya refugee Rabia Khatun, 33, mother of Nur Hafes, washes utensils as her children stand outside their shelter at Palong Khali refugee camp, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, October 27, 2017. (Reuters)

Only 33,000 Rohingyan people received official refugee status. Hundreds of thousands of others are recognised as “undocumented Myanmar nationals” or “Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals”, thus depriving their children of benefiting from protective laws that are already available for Bangladeshi citizens.

Nearly 60 children were born in refugee camps in 2018 - they come into this world without any registration.

A Rohingya refugee child looks at the vill from a hill at Unchiparang refugee camp, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh January 11, 2018.
A Rohingya refugee child looks at the vill from a hill at Unchiparang refugee camp, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh January 11, 2018. (Reuters)

“Rohingya babies being born without citizenship, very few births in the camps are formally registered, thereby diminishing the available protection mechanisms even further,” the Xchange report stated.

According to the United Nations’ migration agency,  Rohingya refugee girls are being sold into forced labour to raise money for desperate families in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh.

Source: TRT World