Rohingya refugees wait for food aid at Thankhali refugee camp in Bangladesh's Ukhia district. Picture: AFP PHOTO/ Munir Uz Zaman

London - The BBC paid refugees £33 (about R552) a day to relive their plight fleeing Burma for scenes in its hit show Our Girl.

The Army drama, starring Michelle Keegan, is accused of making the extras – including Rohingya Muslims – wade through water for hours covered in dirt.

One refugee said the scenes felt like ‘torture’, but that they needed the money too much to complain.

The treatment of the persecuted Rohingya on set in Malaysia is understood to have angered both the cast and crew.

Young children were also used during filming, it is claimed, with one extra saying they were screaming and crying during harrowing scenes.

Habibah Abdullah, 23, spent 15 days at sea after escaping Burma, and had to relive the painful ordeal.

She said: "Everybody was reliving personal nightmares and it was very difficult for us but we had to go through it all because we need the money. We are accustomed to hardship and if that is what we have to go through to earn money to feed our families, of course we will do it."

Miss Abdullah claims she even saw one man collapse due to the heat on the day of filming, a claim backed by the BBC, which admitted a male refugee was taken to hospital.

The corporation defended the low pay, saying it was the standard rate for work in Malaysia. Around 100 refugees were picked to be extras and they were collected from their homes in the capital Kuala Lumpur at 5am for a 12-hour day for which they were paid £33.

The fourth season of the BBC1 drama is being filmed in the country and will air in April.

Coronation Street star Miss Keegan has played Army medic Georgie Lane since series two. Another extra, Mubarak Bindi, who saw her home village burning to the ground, was placed in a set that brought back horrible memories.

She told The Sun: "My heart sank when I saw the film set. It reminded me of where I had to live after my village was burned down. I felt very upset."

A source told the Sun that many of the cast and crew were concerned about the treatment of the refugees on set, include star of the show Miss Keegan.

More than 600 000 Rohingya, a Muslim minority in a largely Buddhist population in Burma, fled for their lives last year after the country’s military launched a crackdown.

Many have been left traumatised by the atrocities, which have included murder, rape and arson attacks. A BBC spokesperson said: "The storyline was conceived to shine 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."

"One of the Rohingya supporting artists was seen by an on-set medic and taken to hospital with the producer."

"Filming stopped to allow this to happen and there is no footage of the event in the programme."