Xchange explores what return means for the Rohingya in latest Repatriation Survey

Since August 25, more than 671,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape killings and other mass atrocities being conducted in Rakhine State, Myanmar. Xchange arrived shortly after the first Rohingya refugees fled to Bangladesh and has been collecting data and closely monitoring the developments ever since. Through surveying the Rohingya refugee population we’ve been able to analyze the journeys and incidents which led so many people to flee (Rohingya Survey 2017). We’ve also been able to shed light on their demographics and the harsh conditions they face living in the Bangladesh refugee camps (Snapshot Survey 2018).      

The prospect of return to Myanmar has been a central theme running throughout our research.  Many respondents shared their concerns over repatriation and the distress over the horrors they had witnessed back in Myanmar. Data collected in our first survey showed that 78% of our sample, would return to Myanmar if the situation improved, 16% would not and 6% would return unconditionally. 

In November 2017, the Bangladesh and Myanmar governments agreed to begin a two-year process to return Rohingya refugees. The agreement stated that it would be a “safe, secure and dignified” process beginning on the 23rd January 2018 with the first 1,200 listed returnees.   However, the Rohingya were not consulted on the deal and it failed to outline what conditions they faced upon their return or include guarantees for the provision of basic rights including citizenship, freedom from persecution and employment rights.  This potentially left the Rohingya vulnerable to the persecution they had originally fled.  Miscommunication surrounding the numbers, flow and process of repatriation have raised questions. There are also concerns about how voluntary this process would in fact be.  

The repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh and the border regions remains officially delayed. In recent weeks, rumours emerged of a Rohingya family returning to Myanmar. The Bangladeshi government were quick to denounce it as not repatriation while Rohingya activist news outlets investigating the story called it a staged event.

Building on previous research, our Xchange field team composed of four trained enumerators, are currently surveying the recently arrived Rohingya refugees (post August 25th, 2017) to explore their knowledge about the repatriation deal agreement, their feelings towards and willingness to return to Myanmar as well as their future hopes. 

Our research intends to fill these information gaps by conducting up to 1700 face-to-face via a carefully designed survey with Rohingya over a three-week period, from April 13 to May 7 in Kutupalong, Balukhali, Thangkhali, Jamtoli, Shamlapur, Unchiprang, Leda, Nayapara, Jadimura, and Chakmarkul refugee camps.  

The final report will be available on the Xchange website from May 23rd.  Watch this space for updates on the #RepatSur 

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