Using technology to keep in touch with loved ones overseas is not unusual as many families rely on WhatsApp group chats and social media posts to stay connected. That same technology is allowing Instagram users to follow the life of Yunus, a Rohingya refugee based in Melbourne, and his family, who remain in Thangkali Refugee Camp, part of the Cox’s Bazar megacamp in Bangladesh.
In a world-first documentary, 'She Called Me Red' follows Yunus, 27, as he settles in to his new life in Australia. Alongside Yunus' posts of his life in Australia, his brother in Thangkali Refugee Camp shares updates of the family's life on the other side of the world. All of these updates are then posted to Instagram.
'She Called Me Red' (Red was the nickname Yunus' grandmother gave him) provides an intimate snapshot of life for some of the world's hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees, both those who have settled in new countries and those who remain in limbo in camps.
"In Australia, you can have a good life," writes Yunus. "I work in a recycling plant that is also a nursery. I drive the forklift and do customer service and tidy the shop, replace stock. If I could stay here, I wouldn’t leave this job but I need to move in less than two months. I received my five-year temporary visa last year in April. Three and a half years has to be in a regional area. If you follow these rules, then you can apply for a pathway visa, one that could lead to permanent residency. I’m very stressed about this. If I get a job, I will move. Otherwise I don’t want to move, because I have to look after my family."
Yunus recently received word that his brother in Thangkali Refugee camp is unwell. "My brother Jares suddenly is sick—he got a fever. I don’t know what happened with him. I called him, but he didn’t pick up the call," Yunus writes. I couldn’t speak much, just a few minutes and cut the call. I was at work. I’m going to call them later again.”
"When I see photos of my mother now, I feel sad. I know she is not safe. That she is sick and has a fever that is not getting any better. My mum is getting older. If she sits down, she can’t get up. She was very strong when I left."
Yunus faces a lot of pressure to support his family in Bangladesh. "Money is so tight. I’m worried I won’t find work, find a house, follow the rules of my visa. There is a lot of stress. I have to support my family, but not only my family. Other people ask for money as well. Sometimes I send $400, sometimes $500 a month for my mum, pay my bills - rent and food, and car - and I’m finished. I’ve got only $40 in my bank account."
"I worry for my family. They have a very weak shelter they built themselves," writes Yunus. "The UN provided them bamboo and plastic, but last year one time the wind came and blew off the roof. Then they stay up all night to hold the roof. Some houses are flooded, and in some places the hills are steep and landslides happen. People get injured. How will they live safely from the rain when it comes? How will they find food?"
For daily updates from Yunus and his family, follow @sbs.online.documentaries on Instagram.
Photos by GMB Akash and Chris Hopkins.