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Spurs’ Pau Gasol working with UNICEF in city that houses largest refugee camp in the world

Pau Gasol, UNICEF

The offseason is a time in which most NBA athletes take a vacation or simply relax with their families. However, San Antonio Spurs star Pau Gasol has decided to use his down time to raise awareness with UNICEF.

On Monday morning, Gasol sent out a tweet indicating that he was at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh — an over-crowded camp in which more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees have passed through in the last year.

The Rohingya are often referred to as the world’s most persecuted minority. Though they can trace their lineage back to the eighth century, members of this Muslim-based community cannot receive citizenship in their native Myanmar (also known as Burma) due to the 1982 Myanmar nationality law, which currently recognizes just three categories of citizens. Furthermore, the Rohingya are faced with several daily restrictions, including freedom of movement, state education, and civil service jobs.

Via Linah Alsaafin of Al Jazeera:

“Tens of thousands of people have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state since the military began a security operation last October in response to what it says was an attack by Rohingya armed men on border posts, in which nine police officers were killed.”

In an effort to lift their spirits a bit, Gasol, who serves as a UNICEF ambassador for Spain, spent quite a bit of time with a group of Rohingya children at Cox’s Bazar.

Aside from the aforementioned struggles the Rohingya people deal with on a day-to-day basis as refugees, they’re also faced with risks of communicable diseases, fires, flooding, land slides, community tensions, and sexual violence.

Plans for other camps have been in place for some time now. However, with land being as scarce as it is in Bangladesh, options are simply limited.

Mohammad Abul Kalam, who serves as the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner for Bangladesh’s Disaster Management Ministry, told Al Jazeera that there is “no doubt” the camp is “definitely overcrowded”.

“But we also don’t have much mainland,” he said. “We are a population of 160 million and suffer from land scarcity. So, settling the refugees in the first place is really remarkable.”

Gasol could have went anywhere in the world with his time off. Instead, he chose to shine a light on this troubling crisis.