ISCG Situation Report: Rohingya Refugee Crisis, Cox’s Bazar | 15 November 2018 (covering 30 October - 12 November)
• During the reporting period, anxieties and concerns have risen across all camps, in response to the news about the start of the two Government's repatriation plan. The announcement of the start date of the 15th of November follows the agreement made at the Joint Working Group meeting between the Bangladesh and Myanmar Governments on 30th of October. In the lead up to the 15th of November, there were additional restrictions on movements announces as well as increased military presence in the camps where the majority of refugees whose names were listed for repatriation reside. UNHCR stated repeatedly at different levels that the repatriation of refugees should be premised "upon the free and informed decision by refugees, on an individual basis, to return". To ensure adequate support for refugees on 15 November, strengthened Protection and Site Management teams, as well as mobile Mental Health and Psychosocial Support capacity were deployed.
• On 15 November, the Bangladesh authorities were present and prepared with a number of buses and supplies to facilitate the voluntary repatriation from camp 22. However, none of the refugees came forward with the wish to voluntary repatriate, and instead many refugees gathered to highlight that they could only repatriate once certain conditions, including security from violence, basic rights, and citizenship was granted to them by the Government of Myanmar. The authorities kept the voluntary repatriation option open during the whole day, but withdrew in the evening.
• In a press briefing that followed on 15 November, the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh affirmed that Rohingya will not be forced to return. The RRRC in a media briefing also confirmed that Bangladesh will adhere to the non-refoulment principle. Given the strong refugee sentiment expressed on the 15th of November highlighting the explicit lack of any current interest to voluntarily return, there were no repatriation activities in the camp on the 16th of November.
• In the lead up to the repatriation exercise, refugees stressed that many were suffering psychologically from the fear of being forced to return where they perceive that their life and safety will be in danger. Many refugees were also increasingly unwilling to engage in services for fear of being linked into the repatriation process Partners observed reduced uptake of services across Sectors, with some activities cancelled for this reason (particularly but not exclusively activities involving the gathering of information).
• Health Sector reviewed 20 alerts from the disease early warning and response system (EWARS) in the last week. All the alerts were reviewed within 48 hours and, where needed, joint investigation and responses were carried out in the surrounding households along with the WASH sector.