August 2017, an estimated 712,152 Rohingya refugees fled from Myanmar seeking safety and protection in Bangladesh, increasing the total number of refugees to 861,545 as of September 2020. The majority are reliant on humanitarian assistance including shelter, food, healthcare, clean water, and sanitation. As the situation enters its third year, UNHCR and its protection partners have put in place a system to ensure a strengthened understanding of the protection landscape for Rohingya refugees, including in a range of key thematic areas across sectors, each of which requires regular monitoring. Congruent with global trends, the pandemic in Bangladesh is negatively affecting the overall protection environment. Mitigating the short and longer term social protection consequences of the pandemic and ensuring ways to safeguard the resilience and psychosocial well-being of communities, whilst ensuring that protection and humanitarian space does not contract is a key priority for the Operation.
Advocacy and Refugee Rights
• Registration and civil documentation: Revised SOPs on the registration of marriages and deaths rolled-out in the last part of 2019 are now being implemented in all 34 camps, and UNHCR has conducted familiarization programmes on the new SOPs with CiC staff and protection partners. Thus far in 2020 some 1,200 marriages and 125 divorces have been registered and certificates have been issued to refugees. The registration process, however, was temporarily suspended at the end of March owing to the COVID-19 situation, though awareness raising among refugees about the importance of civil documentation has continued, albeit on a more limited scale. The Office of the RRRC confirmed the resumption of marriage and divorce registration at the beginning of September, but the 5-month suspension has resulted in a large number of undocumented marriages that will certainly put pressure on the processing capacity of CiC offices over the coming months. Additionally, the protection mechanisms embedded in the process of marriage registration, including prevention of child marriage and nonconsensual polygamy, were also affected as a result of the suspension. The handling of divorce requests has also been particularly affected, and in many cases, those involved have been discouraged from seeking divorce by authorities and were instead referred to mediation. Reports from case workers suggest that this hasintensified domestic violence. With the closure of UNHCR’s registration sites in March refugees have continued to approach protection focal points in the camps seeking resolution of problems with family composition documentation. The Office is now addressing the backlog of these pending registration issues, following the reopening of registration sites on a limited basis. Birth registration for both refugees and the host community has remained suspended since 2017, though in September district authorities announced they had resumed birth registration for children born to Bangladeshi nationals. Advocacy with the Government for the registration of refugee births in ongoing.