British shoppers were given the chance to experience the world's largest refugee camp on Monday when a charity attempted to recreate the jungles of southern Bangladesh - home to nearly a million displaced Rohingya - in a London mall.
The interactive installation by the British Red Cross allows shoppers to see what life is like for the refugees, who fled Myanmar in their hundreds of thousands during a brutal military crackdown in 2017. Nearly two years after the crackdown, the Red Cross said it wanted to ensure the public did not forget the Rohingya and raise awareness of their plight as the monsoon rains lash their flimsy shelters.
"We want people to emerge from the installation with a sense of understanding that this humanitarian crisis on an epic scale is still continuing, two years on," spokesman Paul Amadi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "You have an incredibly fragile community that is increasingly at risk."
The exhibition in east London's Westfield mall features a typical shelter in the Bangladesh camps, home to more than 900,000 refugees from the Rohingya ethnic minority, and includes video of interviews with the residents. The British Red Cross is working with the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society to assist hundreds of thousands with shelter, clean water, food, healthcare and emotional support in one of the largest humanitarian operations in the world.
Myanmar has said it has been ready to accept returning refugees since January, but the United Nations says conditions are not yet right for their return. The Rohingya say they want guarantees over their safety and to be recognized as citizens. Amadi said he hoped the installation would give shoppers at the mall a personal sense of the challenges faced by Rohingya refugees as the charity appeals for more donations to help those in the camp.
"What we've tried to design is a truly, fully immersive experience which we would characterize as an assault on the senses, which tries to bring to life the journey that millions of people went through," he said.
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