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Living Silence: Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

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Living Silence: Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

14 June 2010

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) presents "Living Silence", a photographic exhibition of one of the world's most enduring refugee crises, by award-winning photographer Saiful Huq Omi. From 15th to 24th June during Refugee Week, "Living Silence" comes to East Gallery in Brick Lane, at the heart of the Bangladeshi community in London.

Bangladesh has hosted refugees for over three decades. Today, 28,000 refugees from Myanmar known as the Rohingya, an ethnic, religious and linguistic minority people, are living in the two official refugee camps in the south east of Bangladesh. Over half of them are children, many of whom have only ever experienced life in the camps. It is estimated that there are a further 200,000 Rohingya living outside the camps, unable to return to Myanmar where they fear persecution and exploitation.

Like refugees around the world, the Rohingya refugees are survivors. They are living in transience, waiting for the day they can go home in safety and in dignity. Until then, like any other people, they aspire to live a life free from violence and exploitation.

Saiful Huq Omi, "Living Silence" photographer, said:

"These people deserve a better life. What I have seen on the ground and photographed, cannot go on like this. Global leaders have to find a solution for the Rohingya.

"When you talked to these kids you'd see they know things are very, very uncertain but they know some things for sure - they can't go back to their own country. They know they don't belong anywhere, neither in Myanmar or Bangladesh. They know they don't have a real home. They know their parents will never be able to provide them with genuine shelter or protect their future. This is a very, very desperate situation.

Their story has to be told in a balanced way, the real story of what is happening to these people. They are the forgotten refugees in the world. Almost no one talks about them. When they see these images and listen to these words, and stories, I am sure people will say, let's try to find a solution."

Together with other UN agencies and NGOs, UNHCR provides shelter, water, primary education and healthcare to refugees from Myanmar in Nayapara and Kutupalong camps. UNHCR is also working with the UK Border Agency to resettle some of the most vulnerable Rohingya; to date 198 have been given a chance to start new lives in the U.K.