The magnitude, longevity and escalation of the Rohingya refugee crisis has placed an enormous burden on host communities in Bangladesh. With the market for casual labour saturated by new arrivals, compensation for a day’s work in many border areas has plummeted to below 70 pence a day. Demand for commodities has also spiked, pushing up prices for basic provisions.
Most of those living near border prior to this crisis were already teetering on the edge of subsistence poverty, and poorly equipped to host one of the largest migrations in modern human history.
As a consequence, local communities are suffering and many children are forced to abandon their education. Many families cannot afford the associated costs of school or need their children to work in order to supplement household incomes.
Cox’s Bazar tourist beach is an area of outstanding natural beauty, yet it is ravaged by extreme poverty. As a result, rather than learning or playing, children often need to work to support their families. Cox’s Bazar is one of six districts with the highest incidence of child labour across the country (9.4% compared to the national average of 6%) and even if children could survive without working, in the slum areas where we operate, there are no government schools functioning.
ACAPS report that the education dropout rate here is 45% for boys and 30% for girls, largely because of low family income. It is one of the lowest performing districts with regards to education access, retention and achievement and UN figures state that currently, only 66.2 % of children in Bangladesh complete their primary education. 88% of female headed households have withdrawn children from school, citing rising food prices and the need for additional household labour.
A full third of the children living in these communities come from Rohingya families who have fled previous waves of violence. While they have attempted to blend in, a study by migration researchers ‘xchange’ in July 2018 stated that 85% of local people believed that Rohingya children should not go to Bangladeshi schools. The reality is that these refugees would not have any other access to education.
Doharazi Rohingya Enclaves
Since the early 1990s these communities have served as a safe haven for Rohingya migrants fleeing abuse in Rakhine State. Falling outside of the scrutiny of the border police, refugees in these areas have typically sought to live below the radar, and local landowners have happily received the cheap labour they offer.
Over time their numbers have swelled, with many new arrivals coming in the wake of the violence of 2016 and 2017. However, being unregistered and stateless, these Rohingya enjoy none of the services available to their counterparts in the refugee camps and children are entirely cut off from education and support.
Both groups of children are in danger of exploitation, trafficking and growing up without any education or chance to enjoy the opportunities that should be inherent in childhood.