Which countries accept Rohingya refugees?

Country Profiles Migration: Data - History - Politics

Nasir Uddin

Nasir Uddin is a cultural anthropologist and professor of anthropology at the University of Chittagong, Bangladesh. His research interests include migration and refugee research, statelessness and non-citizens as well as the Rohingya people.

The Rohingya, a stateless minority in Myanmar, have been persecuted for decades. Almost a million of them live in precarious conditions in exile in Bangladesh. An overview.

Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar to Bangladesh are waiting in the Kutupalong refugee camp for help (November 2017). (& copy picture-alliance / AP)

Often referred to as "one of the most persecuted minorities in the world" [1], the Rohingya are an ethnic, linguistic and religious minority that has lived in what is now Myanmar for centuries. [2] Around 500,000 of them currently live in Myanmar, most of them in Rakhine State. Another 1.3 million Rohingya live in neighboring southeast Bangladesh, almost all of whom came there in search of protection. Since the military coup in 1962 and the civil government of what was then Burma was replaced by a totalitarian regime, the Chinese, Indians (Muslims and Hindus) and the Rohingya have been the target of persecution, exploitation, discrimination and serious human rights violations. [3] The history of the Rohingya mass displacement began in 1978 when the military junta launched "Operation Dragon King" (Operation Dragon King) started to drive illegal migrants and refugees, especially the Rohingya, out of the country and which resulted in the flight of around 250,000 people. Four years later, in 1982, Burma passed a citizenship law that granted citizenship to 135 "national races" but excluded the Rohingya, making them stateless.

In 1991, the Myanmar military led another operation called "Pure and Beautiful Nation" (Operation Clean and Beautiful Nation) one that also aimed to drive the Rohingya out of the Rakhine state. Successive operations against the Rohingya forced hundreds of thousands of them to flee persecution to Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and Middle Eastern countries. In 2007 the Rohingya attracted worldwide media attention and, as so-called "New Boatpeople" [4], aroused the concern of human rights organizations because hundreds of them drowned at sea trying to reach Thailand and Malaysia by boat. The displacement escalated in August 2017 when violence broke out in Myanmar's Rakhine state and more than 742,000 Rohingya sought refuge in Bangladesh within two years. [5]

Statelessness is the main cause of the Rohingya’s vulnerability as no state feels responsible for protecting their rights. In Myanmar, the Rohingya are considered "illegal immigrants from Bangladesh", while in Bangladesh they have long been described as "illegal Burmese migrants". However, following the recent massive influx in 2017, the Rohingya in Bangladesh were renamed and have since been considered "Forced Myanmar Nationals".

(Forced) migration from Rohingya to Bangladesh

The history of Rohingya migration from the state of Rakhine (formerly Arakan Province) to Bangladesh began in the late 1970s. The first influx of approximately 250,000 Rohingya came in 1978 as a result of the Operation Dragon King. Over the years, around 230,000 Rohingya refugees have reportedly been returned to Myanmar under the supervision of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). However, many of them returned illegally to Bangladesh, where they lived as unregistered Rohingya in various locations in Teknaf and Ukhia, two subdistricts of Cox's Bazar County, particularly in two makeshift camps called Taal (in Ukhia) and Leda (in Teknaf), which housed around 40,000 and 30,000 Rohingya, respectively. About 350,000 to 400,000 Rohingya lived outside these camps. [6] Before 2017, only 32,000 Rohingya were officially registered in Bangladesh and recognized as refugees by the government. They lived in two official camps - Kutupalong in Ukhia and Nayapara in Teknaf - which were monitored by the UNHCR. Many Rohingya, especially those who came to Bangladesh three or four decades ago, are now in Bangladeshi passports and ID cards [7] and have integrated themselves into local society. Equipped with Bangladeshi passports, many of them emigrated to the Gulf States as international labor migrants. [8] There are now 1.3 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The Rohingya settlement near the border town of Cox's Bazar is now the largest refugee camp in the world.

The 2017 Rohingya influx and its effects

A 2018 report [9] by a three-person panel appointed by the United Nations to investigate Myanmar's military campaign in 2017 shows that Myanmar security forces, extremists of the Bamar ethnic group and Buddhist fundamentalists from Rakhine are an alliance to carry out the so-called "Clearance Operations" (Clearance Operations) which started on August 25, 2017. This operation was a direct response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on 30 police and military posts in northern Rakhine on August 24, 2017. By September 2018, more than 725,000 Rohingya had sought refuge in Bangladesh as part of these military offensives. According to the report - according to conservative estimates - at least 10,000 Rohingya were killed in the clearance operations, hundreds of women and girls were raped - often in the context of gang rape - and around 392 Rohingya villages were partially or completely destroyed. [10] The scale of the atrocities was so great that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights described the operations as "a prime example of ethnic cleansing" [11] while other UN investigators spoke of genocide. In 2019, two years after the clearance operations, they stressed that Rohingya in Myanmar are still at risk. According to UN investigators, many of the conditions that led to "killings, rape and gang rape, torture, displacement and other serious violations" by Myanmar's military are still in place and Rohingya remain in Myanmar "at greater risk of genocide than ever before". [12]

The Rohingya refugees live in a precarious situation in Bangladesh. They are provided with food, water and medical supplies, but not to the extent required. Neither the government nor the national media nor representatives of civil society stand up for their rights. The local population is increasingly reluctant to accept the Rohingya and has started to blame the Rohingya for various social problems. Since both Ukhia and Teknaf are resource poor areas in Cox's Bazar County, the presence of 1.3 million Rohingya puts an additional strain on local resources, labor markets and social spaces. It is also a burden on the environment. A study [13] from 2018 confirms that a total of 4,300 acres of forest were cut down to create temporary shelter for Rohingya. In the remaining forests and jungles in Ukhia and Teknaf, almost 6,800 tons of firewood are collected every month. The local farmers have lost arable land as well as poultry and cattle breeding areas as most of the pastures are now taken up by refugee settlements. The local security situation has deteriorated. Not only are there clashes between locals and Rohingya, but also among Rohingya. Women and children are at risk of rape and human trafficking. At the end of 2018, 40 people were identified in the camps who were involved in the trafficking of women and children to the Middle East and Malaysia. [14] Forced prostitution is becoming the norm in the camps, as women and girls are bought, sold, exported and lured to brothels under the pretext of marriage or with the promise of a job.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh and Myanmar have made two attempts to return Rohingya to Myanmar - one on November 15, 2018 and a second on August 22, 2019. Both attempts failed mainly because of Myanmar's reluctance to take Rohingya back, as well as the unwillingness of the Rohingya to return to a country return, which gives them no protection and no rights as citizens, as well as the opposition of the international communities. Therefore, it is very likely that Cox's Bazaar County will become the permanent home of more than a million refugees. Due to the lack of political will on both sides of the border to solve the long-standing displacement crisis of the Rohingya, it has already become a protracted [15] refugee situation. [16]

Translation from English: Vera Hanewinkel