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Opening heart and home to refugees

anjana@khaleejtimes.com Filed on September 25, 2017 | Last updated on September 25, 2017 at 11.29 pm
Opening heart and home to refugees
Rohingya women refugees, holding their babies, wait to receive aid in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

(Reuters)

This Bangladeshi woman has opened up her heart and home to dozens of desperate refugees


Azeeza Begum's huge plot in Shamlapur is the last refuge for many Rohingya refugees who have newly arrived in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. This Bangladeshi woman has opened up her heart and home to dozens of desperate refugees who have otherwise no place to call home.

Begum has allowed more than 40 Rohingya families to set up homes in her compound, many for free. "I inherited this plot from my father. I am doing my bit to help Rohingya. People from all over the world are helping Rohingya, and it will be a shame if we local people are not sympathetic to them," said Begum.

Some Rohingya families have been living on her plot for the last five or six years. They are the early arrivals among the Rohingya migrants. Begum said they pay her an annual rent of 2,000 taka annually.

"The newly arrived Rohingya have no job or money. I let them build a house and stay for free."

Gonimiya, 55, who landed in Bangladesh a week ago, is one such Rohingya who is enjoying Begum's hospitality.

"Having to flee your country and live like a refugee in another is a tragedy. We are surviving on the goodwill and generosity of Bangladeshi people," said Gonimiya. He escaped from Myanmar with eight members of his family, when violence erupted in his native village.

Khaleej Times visited many host communities in Shamlapur, where we saw both Rohingya and Bangladeshis living and sharing the same compound.

Syed Noor and family lives in a small thatched hut next to Ahmed Hussain, a local. He has found work in a fishing boat owned by another local, and earns between 200 and 300 taka daily.

"We don't feel like outsiders here. Local people don't treat us like refugees. I am happy here and don't want to go back to Myanmar ever," said Noor, married with two kids.

According to field workers from NGOs, more than 80 per cent of Rohingya men are working in the fishing sector in Shamlapur. Others are employed in local shops. Kamal Hussain, a local from the area, said many Bangladeshis are open to the idea of employing Rohingya.

"It is mutually beneficial. They offer cheap labour. The Rohingya also need to earn a living in Bangladesh. How long can they live on aid?," said Hussain, who is employing two Rohingya in his grocery shop.

Syed, another Rohingya man, works as a cobbler in Shamlapur. He lives in the same compound as his employer.

"Life is much better here than in a refugee camp. I am earning a living and feeding my family," said Syed.

Mirjahan Mithu, a field worker based in Shamlapur, said host communities are a great way of integrating Rohingya into the society. "For Rohingya, it is easy to find employment opportunities when they are living within the host communities. Locals are very friendly and they share good relations. Rohingya's conditions are much better here as they are not living in over-crowded camps," said Mithu.

Many International and local NGOs are working with host communities in Cox's Bazar offering them development assistance in health, education, nutrition and livelihoods. 

The unregistered population and Bangladeshi host communities are expected to benefit from development assistance in health, education, nutrition, food security and livelihoods. According to an UNHCR report, more than 88,000 Rohingya refugees are living in host communities across Cox's Bazar.

- anjana@khaleejtimes.com

author

Anjana Sankar

Anjana Sankar is a UAE-based journalist chasing global stories of conflict, migration and human rights. She has reported from the frontlines of the wars in Yemen and Syria and has extensively written on the refugee crisis in Bangladesh, Iraq and Europe. From interviewing Daesh militants to embedding with the UAE army in Yemen, and covering earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks and elections, she has come out scathe-free from the most dangerous conflict zones of the world. Riding on over 14 years of experience, Anjana currently is an Assistant Editor with Khaleej Times and leads the reporting team. She often speaks about women empowerment on her Facebook page that has 40,000 plus followers.





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