In 1977, Myanmar (then known as Burma) launched Operation Dragon King in Rakhine state and stripped the Rohingya ethnic minority of their citizenship. Being considered illegal in their own country of residence, the Rohingya were forced to leave their homes. Operation Dragon King included mass arrests and persecution of the Rohingya people, which drove around 200,000 people to cross the border to Bangladesh.
In 1989, approximately 250,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh as they were reportedly subject to compulsory labour, forced relocation, execution, torture and rape. Amid the Rohingya crisis being on the contemporary global agenda, the United Nations Independent International fact-finding mission found that the Myanmar military committed ‘routine and systematic’ sexual violence against the Rohingya ethnic minorities. This abuse also included children.
Following these violent attacks, with continuous systematic discrimination, statelessness and targeted violence in Rakhine state, the Rohingya refugee crisis has remained on the international agenda since 2016. In Myanmar, entire villages where the Rohingya lived were burned, families were separated and killed and women and girls were gang raped. Following these systematic abuses, August 2017 saw the largest and fastest wave of refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Between August 2017 and March 2020, it has been stated that over 900,000 Rohingya ed to Ukhiya and Teknaf Upazila in Cox’s Bazar. The vast majority of Rohingya refugees live in 34 extremely congested camps, including the largest single site, the Kutupalong-Balukhali Expansion site, which hosts approximately 625,000 refugees. With temporary shelter and refugee camps scattered around Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh is now home to the world’s largest refugee camp.
According to UNICEF, there are currently an estimated 75,971 children under three years of age in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. This constitutes 9% of the total refugee population. The implication is that almost all of them were born after their mothers ed to Bangladesh. An estimated 108,047 mostly Rohingya children have been born in confinement in Bangladesh and Myanmar over the past several years. They are living in conditions not suitable for children, with limited access to education and healthcare, no freedom of movement and almost entirely dependent on aid.