Xchange Press Release
New Xchange survey highlights failings in Repatriation process caused by the exclusion of Rohingya refugees from negotiations.
Xchange launches its Repatriation Survey on Wednesday 23rd May 2018.
This MOAS funded survey, conducted over the one-month period in April and May 2018, is the latest in a series of in-depth Rohingya reports that began in 2016. Our two most recent Rohingya surveys, conducted in September-October 2017 and January-February 2018, discussed the journeys and incidents which forced Rohingyas from Rakhine State to flee, followed up with a survey of living conditions and safety and security within the camps. This time, the team sampled over 1700 Rohingya refugees living in Cox’s Bazar district on their attitudes towards returning from Bangladesh to Myanmar.
Almost nine months have passed since the intensification of the refugee crisis in western Myanmar, which saw hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine State flee violence and persecution at the hands of the Myanmar military and ethnic Rakhine extremists. Over 700,000 survivors of these horrors now live austere lives in cramped camps across Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh. Despite the austere conditions on the ground they face there, refugees told us that they have never felt safer. At this juncture, there are questions surrounding what Rohingya refugees know and feel about the prospect of returning to Myanmar.
Rohingya repatriation is not a new phenomenon. The deal signed between the Bangladeshi and Myanmar governments back in November 2017 is only one in a series of proposed and actual repatriations that have occurred since the late 1970s. For decades, Rohingyas forced to migrate to Bangladesh have been subject to return deals signed between the two governments. These deals failed to include the Rohingya in the negotiation process, and claimed that such returns were involuntary even when it was clear that these “repatriations” were not, and violated international best practices intended to prevent refoulement of refugees. The recent deal would have seen Rohingya refugees return over the course a two-year process. Hours before the proposed deal would have been triggered in mid-January, Bangladesh delayed its implementation, raising concerns over its administration and logistics. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also stressed that the repatriation process needed to be voluntary. Amid these developments, it is unclear if Rohingyas in Bangladesh will return to Myanmar and when. The refugees themselves have, once again, been denied agency over their lives and futures.
Drawing on 1700+ surveys conducted across 12 camps in Cox’s Bazar district (two officially registered government camps and ten unofficial settlements), Xchange explores what the Rohingya themselves want from the repatriation process, what return to Myanmar would mean to them, and assessing their knowledge of proposed processes. Our findings illustrate striking truths about their understanding of the repatriation process and what would motivate them to return.
Just over half of the Rohingya refugees surveyed (51.6%) said they knew about the repatriation deal. Of those who did, 80% were unsatisfied with the information they were given. Interestingly, almost all surveyed (99%) would willingly go back to Myanmar, but not without a series of conditions. These primarily focused on the right to citizenship and equal opportunities to move, work and learn. But when asked, almost 70% did not trust the Myanmar government to recognise these rights on return.
‘Our main focus in this survey was getting the Rohingya voice heard, something missing across the whole repatriation process. They have not been consulted, and we needed to find out how they felt and what they knew. As one of our interviewees said, “I’m a Rohingya and I want to show the world that I’m a Rohingya.”, We at Xchange, hope that this project can be a start to making their voices heard.’, Maria Jones, Senior Research Advisor at Xchange said.
‘Xchange has once again shined a light on the dark and difficult situation facing Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Without involving the most important stakeholders, the Rohingya themselves, we are creating further mistrust in our ability to mediate this crisis. We call on all parties involved to include the Rohingya in future negotiations on repatriation. Failing to do so would be irresponsible and careless,’ Regina Catrambone, MOAS Director said.
Xchange Foundation, as a data-driven organisation, firmly believes that good data can – and should – inform good policy. By producing high-quality and relevant research on the lives and fears of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, the findings gathered in this survey can pave the way for larger, more in-depth investigations on topics such as access to education, livelihood opportunities, and protection issues. Furthermore, these findings can – and should – help donors prioritise resilience for refugees in the face of the destructive power of the monsoon season.
MOAS is an international humanitarian organisation dedicated to providing aid and emergency medical relief to refugees and migrants around the world. Today, MOAS is working in Bangladesh to provide emergency medical care and assistance to Rohingya refugees fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar.
In response to the critical need for medical services and provision, in September 2017 MOAS established two ‘Aid Stations’ in Unchiprang and Shamlapur, where Rohingya refugees can receive primary and secondary medical care and where the local Bangladeshi population can access emergency services.
You can read the full report here: http://xchange.org/rohingya-repatriation-survey/
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