1000 Rohingyas Refugees Evicted

What is affected
Housing Social/public
Land Social/public
Type of violation Forced eviction
Date 01 May 2009
Region A [ Asia ]
Country Bangladesh
Location Cox`s Bazaar District, southeastern Bangladesh

Affected persons

Total 1000
Men 0
Women 0
Children 0
Proposed solution
Forced eviction
Housing losses
- Number of homes 200
- Total value €

Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)

Brief narrative From IRIN humanitarian news and analysis

DHAKA, 29 June 2009 (IRIN) - Over the past two months the local authorities in Cox’s Bazaar District, southeastern Bangladesh, have torn down scores of makeshift huts belonging to an estimated 1,000 Rohingya refugees.

“Accurate data is very difficult to gather but we guess around 200 huts were destroyed,” Pia Prytz Phiri, country representative for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), told IRIN in Dhaka.

The refugees in question are part of a community of some 20,000 undocumented Rohingyas living in the hills near Kutupalong refugee camp, in Cox’s Bazaar District.

In all, Bangladesh has some 200,000 undocumented Rohingya refugees, mainly in the districts of greater Chittagong and Barisal. Undocumented refugees are those who have not been registered with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), have fewer rights to assistance, and are considered illegal settlers by the authorities.

Kutupalong is one of two government camps for documented Rohingya refugees. Together they accommodate 28,000 refugees in Bangladesh. Kutupalong camp hosts 11,000 people. The camps are funded by the UNHCR and managed by the government of Bangladesh, with support from the UNHCR and other donors. Only those inside the camps are officially registered and recognised as refugees, and hence eligible for assistance.

However, thousands of undocumented refugees have settled near Kutupalong over the past few years in the hope of receiving food and some of the benefits available at the camp.

“Many of these people were living peacefully and building meaningful lives among the many villages of Cox’s Bazaar, when unfounded rumours of fictional registration opportunities caused them to flock here,” the UNHCR’s Phiri explained, but pointed out that they were not part of a new wave of refugees from Myanmar. She said they had been in Bangladesh for 17 years, but since 1992 the government had not registered a single new Rohingya refugee.

Forced out of their huts

“An official came with five policemen and told me to remove my shelter. They said if I didn’t go they would break everything. I told them I had nowhere to go, so they started tearing my house down. I had to move,” one 39-year-old woman said.

In recent weeks, there have been increasing reports of forced displacement, destroyed properties and intimidation by the local authorities.

“This highly vulnerable population is facing imminent expulsion by the local authorities who are using unacceptable methods to uproot them,” Gemma Davies, project coordinator for a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team which runs an emergency health centre in Kutupalong, said on 23 June.

“We hear people were dragged out of their shelters if they refused to move…There was one four-year-old girl who arrived at our clinic [visitors to the camp are commonplace] with knife injuries and another five-day-old baby that had been thrown onto the ground. It is totally unacceptable.”

According to UNHCR, “unscrupulous opportunists” have been taking advantage of the situation, demanding money with bogus promises of getting the undocumented refugees registered inside the camp. “We have even heard tales of hovels near Kutupalong camp being rented to refugees with a promise of future integration into the camps,” Phiri said.

Few returnees

The government of Bangladesh, which is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, is keen to repatriate the Rohingyas, but there have been no returns since 2006; only 300 were repatriated between 2004 and 2005.

“The government is sympathetic to the plight of the Rohingyas but a permanent solution is necessary. We are doing the best we can at the government camps but our country lacks the resources to indefinitely support the refugees,” Food and Disaster Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque (responsible for Rohingya issues) told IRIN.

Meanwhile, animosity is brewing in some
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