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Community Feedback: Social Cohesion - Population Movement Operation (PMO), Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh - January 2020

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This thematic report shares the results and recommendations drawn from a series of perception surveys conducted with guest and host communities in Ukhia and Teknaf sub-districts by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society team between 1 to 21 August 2019. This Community Feedback: Social cohesion document is the second of a three-part report series exploring the key transecting issues emerging from a series of community surveys conducted by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) Community Engagement and Accountability (CEA) team in August 2019.

The data collected from the surveys supports our understanding of the needs of both the displaced community from Rakhine as well as the surrounding host communities in Cox’s Bazar. These reports, which draw on both the survey data and supplementary secondary sources, provide a preliminary analysis of the issues. They will be used to inform the Red Cross Red Crescent’s Population Movement Operation (PMO) response and hopefully promote further inquiry among humanitarian policy makers in Bangladesh.

Key findings

• There has been a significant deterioration in host community perceptions of the displaced population – this is recognised as a stark contrast from the beginning of the influx when the host community reported a sense of solidarity with their guests (largely because of a shared Muslim faith) and provided them with shelter, drinking water, food and other essential items. Guest community members from the older registered camps agree with this observation, noting the increase in social tensions since the 2017 influx.

• Host community respondents identify their most urgent challenges as: 1) Unemployment (reduced labour opportunities and agricultural land, increase in competition for markets and jobs); 2) Increased crime and conflict; 3) Inflation of prices for essential goods and services; and 4) Overpopulation. They correlate these problems to the influx of guest community arrivals to their area.

• Day-to-day exchanges between the two communities take place, for example, at local tea stalls or when guest community members come to sell items to local people. But most Bangladeshi respondents reported that these are no longer positive interactions.

• Host community respondents note significant differences with the displaced population in terms of culture and tradition. They see some members of the displaced community asserting cultural dominance, which the host community fears undermines their local Bangladeshi custom. Because of this they are not interested in any NGO joint programming with the guest community, and they propose separate zoning for camp inhabitants with strong border and security controls.

• In addition to increased criminal activity and related security concerns, the practical challenges cited by the host community include: increased cost of living, traffic congestion, scarcity of drinking water, fewer opportunities for income generation, neglect by NGOs who favour the displaced community when recruiting volunteers, restrictions to mobility and communications, and difficulties to secure new passports following incidents of passport falsifications (displaced persons trying to obtain false documents to travel).

• Displaced community respondents from the unregistered camps are more positive, with most believing that they live in harmony with the host community and share a strong bond. There were exceptions in some specific camps, where respondents reported being subjected to harsh rules imposed by the host community, resulting in a lack of social cohesion.