Rohingya refugee camps

Turf wars in Bangladesh refugee camps have displaced 2,000 Rohingya Muslim families

Photo by John Owens (VOA).

— 2 minute read — by Derry Salter

Over the past two weeks, a turf war has erupted in the Rohingya refugee camps in southern Bangladesh. Criminal armed groups in the camps have turned on each other, forcing thousands of refugees to flee with reports stating that at least eight people have been killed since the violence began. The camps have fallen victim to days of arson and gunfire, with the gangs conducting abductions in order to assert dominance in the encampment. Reports suspect that the gangs consist of drug and human traffickers. Bangladeshi authorities have arrested 12 people with Police Superintendent Rafiqul Islam confirming that “a tense situation is prevailing there”.

This is not the first time conflict has broken out in the Rohingya camps with more than 100 recorded deaths since 2018. The region is a key location in the methamphetamine trade, with the drug being manufactured just across the border in Myanmar. Official reports state that all previous deaths in the refugee camps have been a result of shootouts with suspected drug smugglers with the victims being caught in the cross-fire.

The gangs behind the tensions have been named as the Munna gang and the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, most commonly referred to as ARSA. Yet, ARSA recently took to Twitter to deny all involvement with the latest violence, but attacks by ARSA is not a new experience for the Rohingya. In 2017, 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar after repeated ARSA attacks on the police. The latest violence has seen over 2,000 Rohingya families further displaced, with remaining refugees stating “we are living in fear, especially at night” as a result of the nightly shootouts.

This violence has led to activists highlighting the vulnerability of people in crowded refugee camps as there is little humanitarian aid to protect them from further oppression. Despite the UN Refugee Agency originally sending aid to the Rohingya camps, most support has been withdrawn due to the high threat level, leaving newly displaced families on their own.

The constant threat of terror has forced Bangladeshi law enforcement to undertake patrols around the camps with numerous arrests being carried out, yet it is clear that the current protection levels are not enough to keep the Rohingya refugees safe. Amnesty International have warned Bangladesh that further bloodshed will occur if the authorities do not take severe action. If this fails to happen it is clear that many more families will be displaced and many more Rohingya lives will be lost.