More than 12,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees have been left homeless due to a fire that swept through a camp at Cox’s Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh, the United Nations said.
The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said more than 2,000 shelters and over 90 facilities including hospitals and learning centres were destroyed in Sunday’s blaze. More than one million Rohingya refugees live in camps in Cox’s Bazar, most having fled a military-led crackdown in Myanmar in 2017.
Bangladesh is investigating the cause of the fire, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Mizanur Rahman said. “Once we get the report, it will be clear whether it was an act of sabotage or not,” he added.
Fires often break out in the crowded camp with its makeshift structures. A massive blaze in March 2021 killed at least 15 refugees and destroyed over 10,000 homes.
Resident Shafiur Rahman, 24, urged the authorities to provide better facilities. “Our homes were torched in Myanmar. Now we are going through the same here,” he said.
Amnesty International also called on the Bangladesh government to provide safer accommodation for the refugees.
“The government should recognise the danger of keeping large communities in unsafe, over-crowded conditions and take steps to provide adequate and safe housing to the Rohingya community,” Yasasmin Kaviratne, the organisation’s South Asia regional campaigner said.
Rising crime, difficult living conditions and bleak prospects for returning to Myanmar are driving more Rohingya refugees to leave Bangladesh for countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia by boat, putting their lives at risk. U.N. data shows 348 Rohingya are thought to have died at sea last year.