Nearly one million Rohingya refugees are living in threadbare camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, after they fled their homes in Myanmar due to the military’s crimes against humanity – which are currently the subject of a case under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide at the International Court of Justice. After four decades of persecution, they long for the better days to come for themselves and their children. But in the refugee camps their struggle to enjoy their human rights is far from over and a new virus has caused more anxiety. Here’s a look at their lives in the time of COVID-19.

Life of the refugees in the camp


Nearly one million Rohingya, a persecuted mostly Muslim minority in Myanmar, have fled waves of violent attacks in the country since 1978 and sought refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh. The overwhelming majority of them began arriving three years ago when more than 740,000 Rohingyas fled Myanmar. For the foreseeable future, Rohingya refugees will remain in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district. This briefing provides an update on the human rights situation facing the refugees as they contend with the COVID-19 pandemic. Amnesty International calls on the government of Bangladesh to ensure the participation of Rohingya refugees in the decisions that affect them.

”Let us speak for our rights”- Human rights situation of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

© K M Asad via Getty images


The future of nearly a million Rohingya refugees is at stake, and it is time to give Rohingya refugees a voice in the decisions that affect them. 


Nearly one million Rohingya refugees are living in threadbare camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, after they fled their homes in Myanmar due to the military’s crimes against humanity – which are currently the subject of a case under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide at the International Court of Justice.

Now, COVID-19 has exacerbated the conditions of the Rohingya in the camps. Many Rohingya refugees struggle to access healthcare due to language barriers, ill-treatment from some medical staffs and lack of access to information about availability of healthcare services in the camps.

Women in the camps told Amnesty International that their husbands, aggrieved by the loss of opportunity to work, put pressure on them to bring in money, and were violent towards the women in the household.

More than 100 Rohingya refugees have been allegedly killed in extrajudicial executions between August 2017 and July 2020, according to Odhikar, a Bangladeshi human rights organization.

Rohingya refugees and humanitarian workers have said that barbed-wire fences around the camps have created further obstruction in their movement and response to crisis such as fire incidents in the camps. Thousands of Rohingya men, women and children have been relocated to Bhashan Char, a remote silt island at the Bay of Bengal. Many refugees told Amnesty International that they relocated to the island more out of compulsion rather than a choice. Authorities plan to relocate 100,000 Rohingya refugees to the island.

The future of nearly half a million Rohingya children hangs in the balance with limited access to an accredited and certified education. With no place to call their home, no livelihood opportunities to secure a future for them, hundreds of Rohingya men, women and children, take dangerous recourse to boat journeys in the sea to go to neighbouring countries every year during the break from monsoon season between October and June.

For decades, the Rohingyas in Myanmar have been denied their rights to nationality, freedom of movement and access to services including education, employment and healthcare. By promoting and protecting their human rights and dignity, the Bangladeshi government and the international community can empower the Rohingya community to claim their rights. That can only happen when they are given a voice in the decisions that affect them.

Sign the petition to urge Bangladesh’s government and the international community to:

Ensure the participation of Rohingya refugees in the decisions that affect them in order to protect their human rights.

Petitions are currently addressed to the governments of Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Indonesia and the United States.


Amnesty International called for submissions from Rohingya photographers to explain their lives in the time of COVID-19. Submissions arrived from Rohingya refugees as well as Bangladeshis and international photographers. A selection of those photographs is published here today on World Refugee Day 2020.

© Amnesty International

Life in the refugee camps

Nearly 315,000 Rohingya children have been receiving a basic and informal education through 3,200 learning centres. In January this year, Bangladesh government agreed in principle to provide Rohingya children with access to education in Myanmar curriculum. COVID-19 pandemic has pushed more than half a million Rohingya children deeper into a life of uncertainty.
Rakibul Hasan for Amnesty International
Schools all over the world are closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic but children are still able to continue their studies online. COVID-19 resulted in schools being closed but not education. The Rohingya children do not have formal schools to go to study in the camps. But even the learning centres that delivered informal education are now closed due to the pandemic. Children in this photograph are sitting outside one of the locked learning facilities.
© Swayedollah for Amnesty International

Life in the refugee camps

Two young Rohingya siblings are happy after their father brought bags of food to their shelter. The humanitarian ration entitles every Rohingya person to 13kgs of rice, 1kg of yellow split peas, 1 litre of cooking oil, 500 grams of onions, 500 grams of sugar,10 pieces of eggs, 50 grams of turmeric, 100 grams of garlic, 100 grams of dry chilli, 500 grams of salt, 2kgs of potatoes, 2kgs of chickpeas. People still have to buy vegetables, fish and seasonal items to complete a meal. With a restriction on livelihood opportunities and limited cash for community work, people have difficulty meeting ends.
© Dil Kayas for Amnesty International
Monsoon is a difficult season every year for Rohingya refugees. The rain sometimes is a respite from the scorching heat, but it comes with a risk for their lives. The shelters built on tarpaulin and bamboo can barely sustain heavy winds. The rain could wash away their shelters built on muddy hills. An elderly Rohingya man is trying to fix his home in this photograph ahead of a looming storm. This year it’s not just the monsoon but a pandemic has added more uncertainty. The Rohingya men, women and children are in a never-ending test for survival.
© Md Sahat for Amnesty International
In absence of access to high-speed internet in the Rohingya refugee camps, humanitarian agencies are using loudspeakers on autorickshaws and bicycles to deliver awareness messages about COVID-19 and handwashing techniques.
©Md. Jamal Arkani for Amnesty International
The little girl is going to a health post with her mother. She has taken her caution by wearing the mask. According to healthcare providers, medical consultations in the camps have reduced by 50 percent between March and May. The Rohingya are afraid to come forward to test for coronavirus or report any illness for fear of coercive quarantine in isolation facilities.
Md Sahat for Amnesty

Life in the refugee camps

Tasmia Fatema, a 26-year-old Rohingya woman is living in a tent with her six-month old daughter Nur Kayda, along with nine other members of her family. “Every day we are getting the news that someone has been infected by the coronavirus. We are already living miserably. There is scarcity of water in the camp. How will we wash our hands, where will we get soap to clean our hands?” she asks.
Fabeha Monir for Amnesty International
Rohingya refugees cannot receive prompt and reliable information about COVID-19 due to restrictions on access to internet in the refugee camps. They cannot communicate with their family members at home in Myanmar or other countries. Authorities have advised remote legal aid management for gender-based violence but it is hardly effective with a restricted network. Zomilah Begum, 40, like most Rohingya refugees in the camp, has difficulty finding network on phone.
Yassin Abdumonab for Amnesty International
A young Rohingya boy is wearing face mask and a long plastic coat to prevent him from getting infected by COVID-19. Personal protective equipment (PPE) became one of the most sought after items once the pandemic broke out. Some NGOs have tried to arrange supplies of PPE for the refugees.
© Azimul Hasson for Amnesty International