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Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh Get Identity Cards for the First Time

For most of the more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar, things are about to change for the better

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rohingya refugees
FILE PHOTO: Amir Ali, 75, plays a violin in front of his house in Kutuapalong Rohigya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Feb. 8, 2019. VOA

Bangladeshi authorities and the U.N. refugee agency have registered more than a quarter million Rohingya refugees and presented them with identity documents that grant them a number of rights and safeguards.

Unlike citizens of a country, stateless people have few rights. They may be deprived of an education, a job or health care. Those who are not registered at birth have no identity. That is the situation for millions of Rohingya who were stripped of their citizenship in neighboring Myanmar in 1982. Many of them are sheltering in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, after fleeing killings and persecution in Myanmar.

Change for better

For most of the more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, things are about to change for the better. The U.N. refugee agency says the more than 270,000 Rohingya refugees who have completed the registration process have for the first time ever received an identity card.

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FILE – Rohingya refugees gather at a market inside a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, March 7, 2019. VOA

UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic says the ID card includes a photo and key information, such as name, date of birth and place of birth. It also indicates Myanmar as the country of origin.

“The first and foremost purpose of this registration is humanitarian in order to safeguard their right to return, to regulate their stay and also to make sure that we do not know only how many people there are, that we have a detailed profile which allows us with the more accurate data to deliver far better assistance to this massive refugee population,” Mahecic said.

Mahecic says the UNHCR and Bangladeshi authorities hope to complete the registration process for the entire refugee population by November. He cites a number of benefits associated with having an ID card.

rohingya refugees
Rohingya refugees gather near a fence in the ‘no man’s land’ zone between the Myanmar and Bangladesh border as seen from Maungdaw district, western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, Aug. 24, 2018. Credit: AFP. RFA

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Target assistance

Mahecic says the data will allow aid agencies to target assistance to people in acute need, including women and children heading families and people with disabilities. With the monsoon season approaching, he says the registration data will help reunite families who are separated during storms.

He notes the refugees are ripe for exploitation by smugglers and traffickers. Mahecic says the ID card will help authorities combat that nefarious trade. (VOA)

Next Story

Report: Conditions in Myanmar Not Safe for Return of Rohingya Refugees

Myanmar has presented Bangladesh with a list of more than 1,200 verified displaced persons who repeatedly expressed their desire to return, he said

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rohingya refugees
FILE - Rohingya Muslims, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait in queues to receive aid at Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhiya, Bangladesh, Nov. 15, 2017. VOA

Conditions in Myanmar are far too dangerous for the safe, dignified return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who have fled to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to escape violence and persecution in their home country, according to a report by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

More than 730,000 Rohingya refugees are living in squalid, overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar.  While conditions in Bangladesh remain dire, U.N. officials say the situation in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state is worse and far more threatening.

U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore presented the report to the U.N. council. She says Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine state face serious discrimination, and continuous, systematic violations of their fundamental rights and freedoms.

“We continue to receive and can verify reports from a variety of sources, including reports on sexual and gender-based violence, that human rights violations continue, allegedly committed by members of the security forces,” Gilmore said. “The conditions conducive for refugee return simply do not exist.”

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Rohingya Muslims, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wade past a waterlogged path leading to the Jamtoli refugee camp in Ukhiya, Bangladesh. VOA

Security forces attacked and burned Rohingya homes and shops in several townships in May, Gilmore reported. She said her office has received reports of disappearances, and of people being subjected to torture and other forms of abuse in detention.

In addition, she said, Rohingya Muslims are denied basic services to health, education and jobs, and many have been stripped of their property and identity papers, essentially rendering them stateless.

Gilmore called on the Myanmar government to reverse this situation and to end the statelessness of the Rohingya. She said it is unlikely the refugees will return to their place of origin until their citizenship status is recognized.

Reaction in Myanmar

Myanmar’s Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Kyaw Moe Tun, says human rights awareness is promoted throughout his country. He called the U.N. report misleading, incomplete and full of unverified allegations that distort the truth.

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Displaced Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine. Wikimedia Commons

The repatriation process must begin as soon as possible to resolve the humanitarian situation, he said, adding that Myanmar has been ready to receive people since January 2018, when his country and Bangladesh signed a repatriation agreement.

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Myanmar has presented Bangladesh with a list of more than 1,200 verified displaced persons who repeatedly expressed their desire to return, he said.

Earlier this year, Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque told the U.N. Security Council “not a single Rohingya has volunteered to return to Rakhine due to the absence of conducive environment there.” (VOA)