Geneva Camp

Bangladesh became independent in 1971 after vicious civil war in which millions of lives were lost. During the Pakistani period, Bangladeshi people were persecuted and exploited in all aspects of life and politics. After the liberation of Bangladesh, a huge number of Pakistani citizens, most of who were against the Bangladeshi liberation war, remained in Bangladesh. In 1972 the Bangladesh government established the Geneva Refugee Camps (that complied with the Geneva Convention) in 116 locations, including Dhaka City, Khulna, Soiyadpur, Mymensingh, Rangpur, Bogura and Iswardi districts to house the refugees. Mohammadpur Geneva Camp is one of the largest refugee camps in Dhaka City where 5000 people still live thirty-eight years after the event. To fulfill the needs of the camp dwellers an unofficial market has been established and there are shops selling a variety of items on the periphery of the camp. In total the number of shops in the camp exceeds 800. Readymade wear, fashion products, cosmetics, stationery, household products, crockery, movies, Pakistani food, tea, pan, cigarette and so on are widely available. In the small general market vegetables, fish, meat, rice are sold as well. Close to College Gate there are roadside shops that specialize in cars, providing garages and workshops. Although all the shops provide the necessary good for living the people of the Geneva camp lead a miserable life, as they are detached from normal society and fear for their lives. When the camp was established each family was assigned 16 square feet to live in as a temporary measure. Now a third generation has been born into these conditions. The children grow up in shocking conditions and face the risks of child labor, drugs and HIV/AIDS. They live in these small, overcrowded places and suffer a lot. They cook, they sleep and they do business from the same room. No minimum health and sanitation security is provided and they move around in narrow and dirty walkways that smell of garbage and human waste. It is difficult to be a good citizen in these conditions. Only 10% of children go to primary school with only 2% having a chance to study in high school. Most children start life by doing hard work at a car workshop or at a jamdani sari design shop with a minimum salary 15-30 taka per day (approximately 40 to 50 US cents). (The people of the Geneva Camp are divided into two groups. One group still wants to return to Pakistan and their organizations SPARC. The other group wishes to remain in Bangladesh and become citizens and their association is called The Association of Young Generation. Around 25% of people are members of SPARC while 75% support The Association of Young Generation. Until 2003 the camp dwellers had no citizenship rights in Bangladesh despite the fact they were 2nd and 3rd generation born . In 2003 and 2008 the Supreme Court of Bangladesh gave Bangladeshi Citizenship and rights to these people who may now possess a national ID card and be listed in the national voter lists.)