The enormous Rohingya influx into Bangladesh has placed acute strain on host communities and resources in Cox’s Bazar district where most of the Rohingyas are concentrated, says a new global report on Tuesday.
Bangladesh, in 2017, registered the second-largest number of new refugee arrivals with 655,500, all of them from Myanmar, UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said in its annual report - Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2017.
“Because they are both stateless and refugees, the Rohingya in Bangladesh are in critical need of international protection,” according to the report released ahead of World Refugee Day that falls on June 20.
It mentioned that in terms of countries of asylum, the largest number of new refugee registrations was recorded in Turkey, which granted temporary protection to 681,000 Syrians.
The vast majority arrived during a massive exodus following the August violence. At the height of the emergency, UNHCR says, thousands of refugees arrived in Bangladesh daily, which was the largest and fastest refugee influx seen in the region in the past twenty years.
Sudan received 479,700 new refugees, the majority from South Sudan (475,500) as well as a smaller number of Syrians (4,200).
The Kutupalong-Balukhali site in Cox’s Bazar is now the largest and most densely populated refugee settlement in the world.
Throughout the crisis, the government of Bangladesh has kept its borders open, and the people of Bangladesh have shown tremendous generosity in hosting the newly arrived refugees, the report noted.
Overcrowding and inaccessibility to parts of the site due to challenging topography and weather conditions, particularly during the monsoon season between May and September, is increasing all protection risks, said the report.
More than 2.7 million people fled their homes to another country in 2017, the vast majority of whom (88 per cent) originated from just three countries (South Sudan, Syria, Myanmar) and found protection in bordering countries or their immediate region, according to UNHCR report.
A large proportion of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh face heightened risks: more than half of the refugees are under the age of 18, more than half are women and girls, and up to one third of the families have been identified to have a protection vulnerability.
Many experienced extreme violence - including sexual violence - and psychological trauma prior to and during their flight.
UNHCR has called on the government of Myanmar to address the root causes of the Rohingyas’ displacement, including by guaranteeing their security in Rakhine State, ensuring that they can meaningfully enjoy their basic human rights, and, ultimately, providing a pathway to citizenship.
“Only by ending their statelessness can the Rohingya be promised a normal life and hope for the future,” the report says.
The situation in Myanmar deteriorated rapidly in the second half of 2017, affecting millions of people. The flight of refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh occurred at a particularly rapid rate.
Refugees originating from Myanmar represented the fourth-largest population group by country of origin, more than doubling in number from less than half a million to 1.2 million by the end of 2017.
The majority of refugees from Myanmar at the end of the year were hosted by Bangladesh (932,200).
Other countries with sizable populations of Myanmar refugees were Thailand (100,000), Malaysia (98,000), and India (18,100).
They were born and raised in Myanmar for multiple generations and know no other place to call home.
The Rohingyas are stateless due to the restrictive provisions and application of the Myanmar citizenship law, which primarily confers citizenship on the basis of ethnicity.
As a direct result of their statelessness, the Rohingyas in Myanmar suffer entrenched discrimination, marginalization, and denial of a wide range of basic human rights.
“We are at a watershed, where success in managing forced displacement globally requires a new and far more comprehensive approach so that countries and communities aren’t left dealing with this alone,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
“But there is reason for some hope. Fourteen countries are already pioneering a new blueprint for responding to refugee situations and in a matter of months a new Global Compact on Refugees will be ready for adoption by the United Nations General Assembly,” he said.
Grandi said, “Today, on the eve of World Refugee Day, my message to member states is please support this. No one becomes a refugee by choice; but the rest of us can have a choice about how we help.”
On Monday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein Zeid said although Myanmar has stated that it will investigate allegations and prosecute alleged perpetrators, its actions to date have not met minimal standards of credibility or impartiality.
Zeid said Bangladesh has granted extensive and commendable access to the Office and all relevant human rights mechanisms with respect to the Rohingya refugee crisis.