Bangladesh: Cox's Bazaar - Protection Working Group (PWG) Task-Team (TT) Terms of Reference, March 2019
Background and Justification:
Starting from 25 August 2017, targeted violence against Rohingya communities in Rakhine State, Myanmar, forced hundreds of thousands of people - mostly women and children - to flee their homes, reaching a total of 909,861 refugees as of 15 March 20191 and leading to what has been defined as one of the largest and the ‘fastest growing’ refugee crisis in the world2 . The Rohingya refugee crisis is a protection crisis, where refugees were forced to flee to Bangladesh to seek refuge from discrimination, persecution, gender-based violence and other gross human rights violations. Many have witnessed family members killed, sexually assaulted and abused or endured separation and are in deep psychosocial distress. Additional risks and needs are placed onto them in displacement, as a result of the current living conditions, with one-third of refugee families having at least one specific protection vulnerability that requires specialized protection attention. Additionally, 55 percent of all refugees being children, the majority of whom do not have access to formal and or informal education, adding to their vulnerability as education is an essential protective factor for them, particularly for girls. The refugee crisis also has a strong gendered nature because of the significant number of women and girls in the refugee camps who had experienced severe forms of abuses and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Myanmar and during flight. Their current condition is now exacerbated by their protracted displacement in mostly congested camps; with severe lack of privacy and confidentiality, difficult access to safe services for women and girls, inadequate access to justice, and restrictive socio-cultural norms which hamper their development, education, volunteering/work opportunities and freedom of movement. Persons living with disabilities’ have suffered exceptional consequences of forced displacement, during and after flight, due to their physical and/or mental impairment; requiring specialized services to meet their specific needs. The lack of access to formal education and self-reliance opportunities continues to expose refugees, especially women, children and adolescent girls, as well as youth in general, to protection risks and potentially harmful coping mechanisms such as exploitation, survival sex, child marriage, and trafficking. The lack of an inclusive and representative camp governance structure, which would strengthen direct and more equitable participation to empower the resilience of the refugee community, is an ongoing protection concern that remains unaddressed in the majority of camps. In addition, accountability and Communicating with Communities initiatives, including complaints and feedback mechanisms still require up-scaling in order to meet the needs of the community across all camps. .
While the overall influx has significantly slowed since the onset of the crisis, in 2018 a total of 16,765 Rohingya refugees crossed into Bangladesh. In addition, at the peak of last year’s monsoon season, in August 2018, around 200,000 individuals were estimated to be at risk of landslides and floods, while an additional 49,000 were already affected in some way by weather-related incidents as a result of monsoon rains.
The complex nature and size of the influx is made worse by the lack of quality and inclusivity of essential humanitarian services, the difficult living conditions due to the geographical terrain and the bad weather conditions - particularly during the monsoon season - and restrictive national policies that continue to limit refugee rights such as freedom of movement, civil documentation, education and access to justice. Since the beginning of 2019, refugees have continued to face heightened protection risks, in particular refugees with specific needs. In this context, the humanitarian community is complementing and supporting the Government’s efforts with a large humanitarian response that prioritizes life-saving needs and provision of essential services, while improving the quality, accessibility and inclusivity of services. The Protection Sector and its two Sub-sectors have led the discussion and decision-making on inclusivity, quality and safety of basic services, prevention and mitigation of protection risks across sectors, advocating for the centrality of protection; ensuring that refugees’ voices and needs are heard and placed at the centre of the response