Life in the world’s largest refugee camp has grown harder in the past few months. Mohammad, a Rohingya farmer who lost his leg fleeing violence in Myanmar, does not understand why.
“We got a lot more before in terms of food and help, but now it feels like we are not getting enough support from the government and NGOs. We are also more restricted in our movement,” he says, sitting on a bench outside his house, surrounded by discarded plastic bottles and rotting food.
The Bangladeshi government has launched a crackdown in the camp, shutting shops run by refugees, blocking internet services, confiscating mobile phones, putting up fencing and setting an 8pm curfew, meaning people can’t leave their homes at night.
Bangladesh appears to be getting frustrated with its more than 1 million guests. Politics is turning and it has been reported that locals in Cox’s Bazar are running out of patience. The government is finalising plans to move 100,000 refugees to an island in the Bay of Bengal and refugees wonder if it is all connected.
The state minister of foreign affairs, Shahriar Alam, said fencing was being put up for security reasons. “As far as the internet is concerned, 2G is still available. Due to the credible security concerns, [the] government has kept the internet access limited,” he says.
For Mohammad, the internet ban means that he has been unable to contact relatives in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. “I feel frustrated by it. Not just about being unable to contact people overseas, but I also cannot call my neighbors. If they are at the market I cannot say, for example: ‘Please bring me back something.’”
Along the dusty road running down the middle of the camp, a number of shops selling food, clothes and other items were shut by police in recent weeks. Their entrances are covered in green and blue tin shutters, and the wooden benches outside lie empty.