The Rohingya Experience: Jersey to host powerful photography exhibition that gives a rare voice to refugees

05 June 2024
Next month, Jersey will be hosting the European premiere of The Rohingya Experience – an outdoor photography exhibition which shines a light on the trials, triumphs and resilience of the world’s largest stateless population.

The Rohingya are an ethnic minority who have been denied citizenship in Myanmar and faced decades of persecution. Currently, nearly one million Rohingya refugees reside in neighbouring Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, living in highly congested camps that are susceptible to severe weather-related hazards, insecurity, disease and suffer a lack of basic services including health, sanitation, education and livelihoods. The camps in Cox’s Bazar together make up the largest refugee camp in the world. Some 95 per cent of the Rohingya households in Bangladesh remain dependent on humanitarian assistance with women and children accounting for 75 per cent of the population.

Over the last five years, JOA has supported humanitarian agencies addressing these needs including the provision of legal and community-based protection, access to health, hygiene and sanitation, nutrition support, and core relief items. These services and items are delivered through long-term humanitarian partners including UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the Red Cross at a time when funding for the overall response continues to decrease owing to competing emergencies and donor fatigue, in part due to the fact that the Rohingya crisis has become protracted.

Organised by Jersey Overseas Aid (JOA), Jersey’s official, publicly funded aid and development agency, and in collaboration with Rohingyatographer, a collective of talented Rohingya photographers, The Rohingya Experience will showcase award-winning photographs taken in the world largest refugee camp. Photographs will be on display in seven locations around town, including Liberation Square, West’s Centre, Charing Cross, at the Cenotaph and on King and Queen Street, between 1st-14thJuly. It will be the first time this collection of photographs has been exhibited in Europe.  

The exhibition’s’ official launch will take place at Jersey Arts Centre at 5:45pm on Tuesday 2nd July where attendees will hear from UNHCR and JOA about the importance and impact of Jersey’s humanitarian aid. Guest speakers include former UNHCR Representative to Bangladesh Johannes van der Klaauw, JOA Commissioner and former UNHCR Director of Emergency, Security and Supply, and Director of Human Resources, Terry Morel, and Jersey resident Faye Coggins, who has recently completed a two year placement with UNHCR in Cox’s Bazar and is now employed by the agency as Executive Assistant to the Representative in Bangladesh. Via video, audience members will also hear directly from the photographers themselves about how the transformative power of photography can give a voice to the stateless, provide a platform for visual storytelling and offer a glimpse into life in the camps through the eyes of Rohingya youth. 

As Jersey's Minister for International Development and Chair of the JOA Commission, Deputy Carolyn Labey states, ‘Jersey Overseas Aid continues to deliver ever-more effective assistance to hundreds of thousands of people. Our projects and partners achieve extraordinary things in some of the most challenging environments in the world. The photographs featured in this exhibition are a testament to the resilience and dignity of the Rohingya people, as well as the vital work being done to support them. Jersey Overseas Aid's ongoing commitment to the Rohingya emergency response, including its partnership with the UNHCR, continues to make a profound impact, providing essential services and items to those who have endured unimaginable hardship. I am delighted that Jersey is hosting this powerful but beautiful selection of images that will provide a unique and highly personal perspective of a protracted crisis that rarely gets the international attention it deserves and where refugees seldom get the opportunity to tell their stories.’

The launch event is free of charge and part of JOA’s Jersey International Development Network (JIDN) – a forum that provides an opportunity for islanders to learn more about overseas aid and how Jersey is making a difference on the international stage. At JIDN events current crises are discussed, the latest trends are debated, and islanders can hear from leading experts in the sector. Free tickets must be booked at The Rohingya Experience - Jersey Arts Centre.

Photo caption: A group of children take a selfie using a sandal on a hilltop in Balukhali refuge camp, Bangladesh. 2022 © Ro Yassin Abdumonab / Rohingyatographer