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Historical Review - Rohingya influx since 1978

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In the 20th century, there have been multiple waves of movement of Rohingya population from Rakhine State in Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh and back. The 2017 exodus is by far the largest. Following each previous displacement to Bangladesh, some of the Rohingya population have returned to Myanmar, driven by both initiatives from the Government of Bangladesh to repatriate the Rohingya population, and the Rohingya population’s own initiative in returning home. Difficult humanitarian conditions, lack of legal status and inability to work in Bangladesh have contributed as pull factors to return home.

A review of documentation on the situation for those residing inside and outside camps in Bangladesh reveals patterns of persistent needs and constraints since 1978. These constraints include congestion, restrictions on freedom of movement and continued statelessness and denial of rights – which, in turn, reduce the possibility of generating income, and drive high rates of malnutrition, low access or quality of WASH facilities, low availability of educational facilities, significant protection concerns, the risk of epidemics, and high prevalence of negative coping mechanisms.

This report is a review of available literature on the Rohingya influxes into Bangladesh since 1978. The review seeks to provide a historical context to the current influx, in terms of population movement, status and sector responses. This report aims to help inform current and future humanitarian response.

Note: as this report focuses on influxes since 1978, most observations address the two refugee camps, Kutupalong and Nayapara, which were established in the 90s and have existed since then. Previous assessments on the Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar also tended to focus on registered refugees in official camps, who were receiving humanitarian assistance. Unregistered refugees have only received attention more recently.