British broadcaster the BBC has come under fire for the reported mistreatment of Rohingya refugees who were hired as extras for a popular TV series that is currently being filmed in Malaysia.
The military drama called Our Girl follows the adventures of female medics in the British Army.
It is understood that the controversial scenes were filmed for the show’s fourth series, which is slated to air in the United Kingdom in April.
UK’s The Sun reported sources as claiming the show’s producers hired about 100 Rohingya refugees as extras for just £33 (RM180) a day.
Sources also told the tabloid that the refugees were “forced to relive their nightmares” when they were asked to participate in “horrific scenes.”
The allegations included being asked to dig “graves” in a real rubbish dump as well as extras collapsing from heat exhaustion after being made to work 12 hours a day.
It was also claimed that the extras were “sprayed with an industrial gun to make them look filthy” before they were asked to wade through a river with “terrified babies and children in their arms”.
An extra named as Habibah Abdullah who spent 15 days at sea after fleeing Myanmar recounted her on-set experience with her two-year-old daughter to The Sun.
Habibah who cannot swim was quoted as saying: “We were in fast-moving water and I was terrified. It took hours to do the scenes and we had to go into the water again and again.
“Babies were crying and children all around me were screaming ‘Mummy, mummy.’”
Meanwhile, another extra Mubarak Bindi who fled Myanmar after her village was razed to the ground said filming scenes in a replica of a refugee camp brought back “terrible feelings”.
“My heart sank when I saw the film set. It reminded me of where I had to live after my village was burned down.
“It brought back all the terrible feelings of that time. I felt very upset,” she was quoted as saying by The Sun.
Sources told The Sun tabloid 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, a spokesman for the BBC refuted the allegations and said the refugees were paid the standard local rate.
The rep for the British broadcaster added that the Our Girl storyline was conceived to shed a light on the plight of the Rohingya.
“All the supporting artists were contracted in the normal manner and at rates standard for work in Malaysia, including some Rohingya refugees living in Malaysia.
“At no point were any of the artists asked to do anything that would compromise their safety and their welfare was of paramount importance to us,” the spokesman said.
The spokesman also addressed the case of the Rohingya extra who collapsed from heat exhaustion, saying that he was attended to by an on-set medic and taken to hospital with a producer.
“Filming stopped to allow this to happen and there is no footage of the event in the programme,” he added.
Since August 2017, nearly 650,000 Rohingya have fled a military operation in Myanmar’s westernmost Rakhine state described by the UN and US as “ethnic cleansing”.
Statistics provided by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees last November showed that there are currently more than 60,000 Rohingya refugees in Malaysia.