Rohingya refugees being offered 'fake jobs', then being forced into prostitution

The United Nations says the world's largest refugee camp in Bangladesh is facing a growing problem: human trafficking and exploitation.

The UN says in the chaos of the crisis, girls have reported being offered "false jobs" as domestic helpers and ended up being "forced into prostitution".

Criminal networks and trafficking rings have expanded with the camp's population, it says. 

The most vulnerable are young people who make up more than half of all refugees - 56 percent of the population are aged between 0 and 17 years-old . 

The hardship of life in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar - the location of a refugee camp where Rohingya refugees have fled to from Myanmar - is obvious. There is poor sanitation, lack of food, and a lack of hope. 

But there are hidden dangers too. 

The UN says in the chaos of the crisis, girls have reported being offered "false jobs" as domestic helpers and ended up being "forced into prostitution".
The UN says in the chaos of the crisis, girls have reported being offered "false jobs" as domestic helpers and ended up being "forced into prostitution". Photo credit: Newshub

"There is exploitation in the camp," says emergency support programme manager Tom Petocz.

"There is gender-based violence, which means the possibility of rape. There is trafficking that goes on; women can be abducted and taken out of the camp."

To counter the threat, Tearfund's partner agency in Bangladesh World Concern has created women-only spaces, where teenagers can craft and create dresses for themselves and their sisters. 

"It gives them a sense of safety," Mr Petocz told Newshub. "It also gives them a sense of pride in the product that they're making."

The most vulnerable are children who arrive at the camp without either parent. But the lucky ones are babies like Rofiqa, who was rescued by Hamid Sussin. 

Five days after a massacre in his village, the 19-year-old returned to find the infant alone next to the bodies of her parents. 

"The Myanmar military just kept firing," said Mr Sussin. "When they stopped shooting I came out of hiding and picked up the baby with my uncle."

He took her across the border from Myanmar to Bangladesh to safety - but not before his brother and best friend were also shot.

"I am thinking: how will I survive in the future? And I'm thinking about my education. There is no school here," he said.

But there were some welcome distractions at the camp. The Muslim religious holiday of Eid has had some of the camp's teenagers out celebrating.

"This is a chance to enjoy myself for three days. In Myanmar, there was no enjoyment," said refugee Mohammed. "It is a good day. It's a very pleasant day for everyone."

It's a moment of joy in a place that on most days offers so little. 

If you'd like to support the people there, you can donate to Tearfund's Rohingya Crisis Appeal by visiting tearfund.org.nz or calling 0800 800 777.

Newshub. 

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