Groups excoriate UK broadcaster over ‘inhuman’ treatment of Rohingya actors (VIDEO)

BY KENNETH TEE

PETALING JAYA, Jan 23 — British broadcaster BBC acted heartlessly by making Rohingya refugees relive past horrors for dramatic re-enactments in a TV series, said disapproving migrants rights groups.

They were critical of the BBC over alleged mistreatment of the Rohingya cast as extras in Our Girl, including being made to dig “graves” in a rubbish dump and working 12 hours a day in the heat, leading some to collapse from exhaustion — all for just £33 (RM180) .

Carefugees chairman Azra Banu said the BBC’s alleged treatment of the Rohingya extras was unacceptable, as was its decision to have them re-enact atrocities that may have traumatised them in their country.

“I completely understand the need to re-enact for a drama but what they did was inhuman; you don’t do that,” she told Malay Mail when contacted yesterday for response.

Azra said it was vital to view refugees as people with emotions and sensitivities, and not just a faceless horde that news reports make them out to be.

It was equally important to understand that refugees once had normal lives before they were displaced, she added when urging the media to combat the stigma associated with the group.

However, she said the way the BBC reportedly used the Rohingya was completely unacceptable.

“There are other kinds of exploitation where these refugees were used as ‘living exhibits’ by individuals who attempted to use their tragedies for exposure.

“Reenactments must be done in a more humane way as these people have gone through alot,” she said.

Asean Rohingya Centre executive director Mohd Helmi Ibrahim also censured the BBC for the alleged mistreatment of Rohingya refugees for the military drama.

“It is very unethical and horrendous to conduct their filming by asking these people who have existing psychological scar to relive their traumatic experience,” he said.

Mohd Helmi said the matter was especially galling as refugees already lacked an avenue to voice their concerns formally.

He added that they had also been oppressed in their home countries.

“We do not need to put further stress on their psychological well-being. It shouldn’t be that way,” he said.

Fugee School co-founder and former Miss Malaysia Universe Deborah Henry said any person who becomes a refugee were putting themselves in a very vulnerable and desperate state.

Henry said that any venture that used refugees must be extra mindful of their rights and needs as well as any past trauma they may have experienced.

“Engagement with refugees needs to be done in a dignified and respectful manner,” she said in a text reply to Malay Mail.

Co-founder and CEO of human rights organisation Fortify Rights, Matthew Smith, expressed disappointment at the BBC for not realising the insensitivity towards the Rohingya and the physical hardship they endured during the filming.

“I’d expect the network to do something for the Rohingya to compensate for its treatment of these refugees,” he said in an email reply to Malay Mail.

Citing sources, British tabloid The Sun previously reported that many of the show’s cast and crew were “furious” with the treatment of the “vulnerable” refugees on the set, including its star Michelle Keegan.

In a statement to The Sun, the BBC denied the allegations and said the refugees were paid the standard local rate.

The broadcaster also said show’s storyline was conceived to bring attention to the plight of the Rohingya.