Bangladesh + 1 more

UNHCR Bangladesh Operational Update, 17 December 2017


The Bangladesh emergency is a textbook refugee situation.

People fleeing Myanmar should not be forcibly returned. Return needs to be voluntary, safe, and dignified.

The Government of Bangladesh has generously opened its border for refugees entering the country.
International support continues to be needed to assist refugees and host communities.

UNHCR seeks to ensure that all refugees enjoy their rights on an equal footing. Refugees should be able to participate fully in the decisions that affect their lives.


Estimated new arrivals in Bangladesh since 25 August 2017
307,500 Estimated refugee population before 25 August 2017 954,500 Estimated total refugee population currently


210 staff currently working on the emergency compared to 49 prior to the crisis. 75 are national staff.
21 partners compared to 7 prior to the crisis.


USD 83.7 million
Requested for UNHCR’s initial emergency response

Operational Context

Arrivals and border movements

Since 25 August this year some 655,000 refugees have fled targeted violence and serious human rights violations in Rakhine State, Myanmar. UNHCR estimates that average arrival rates have dropped from 745 per day in November to 100 per day so far this month.

UNHCR identified more than 40 border points used by refugees to cross into Bangladesh since the start of the crisis. Currently, refugees arrive mainly through two entry points - Sabrang and Anjumanpara. The availability of boats, boat fares, information provided by relatives on previous crossings, presence of landmines, and border surveillance generally determine the points of crossing.

The Government and people of Bangladesh have shown extraordinary generosity in keeping the country’s borders open and shared their resources with refugees from Myanmar. Newly arrived refugees are settling in the border areas in the south-east of Bangladesh, in Cox’s Bazar, where an estimated 307,500 refugees were already living. The vast majority are staying in a large and densely populated settlement called Kutupalong. The terrain of the camps is hilly and prone to landslides, flooding, whilst proximity to the coast also makes the area prone to cyclones. Weather conditions, the challenging terrain, and the lack of roads limit access to the refugees, especially those living in more remote areas of the spontaneous settlements. UNHCR has funded a road to ensure better access, working closely with Bangladesh’s armed forces.

Refugee population and protection needs

In order to develop a better understanding of the refugee population and of their needs UNHCR launched a family counting exercise. This exercise will aim to complement the Government’s on-going registration efforts. UNHCR teams have identified family composition in its counting exercise and gathered other information that will assist with response efforts. This exercise is proving instrumental in the development and implementation of protection activities and the provision of targeted assistance.

Of the 753,238 individuals counted, the majority (69%) are from Maungdaw, while 24% are from Buthidaung in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar. Some 52% are women or girls, while 54% are children under 18 years of age. A significant number of families (31%) have at least one member who has specific needs, including single mothers (16%), serious medical conditions (4%), elderly people (4%), and people with disability (5%), among others.

UNHCR is working closely with the Government of Bangladesh and partners to provide protection and assistance to the refugees and to support host populations affected by the influx. The Office also continues to work to develop sites in the extended areas of Kutupalong along with ensuring that basic infrastructure is in place where refugees settle.

On 23 November, the Governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a bilateral ‘arrangement’ on the return of refugees to Myanmar. UNHCR continues to engage with both governments outlining UNHCR’s established role in voluntary return processes, why it is important as a means of ensuring refugee concerns are represented, and to address the most pressing aspects of the arrangement, including its scope, timeframe, conditions, and any other criteria that will help it meet international standards for voluntary return. Refugees will need accurate information in order to make their own well-informed choices on voluntary return to Myanmar. Based on the reports of Rohingya refugees arriving in Bangladesh and of human rights organization, conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State are not yet conducive to enable safe and sustainable return for many refugees. Confidence-building measures will be required on the ground in Rakhine State as well as other measures, such as unhindered access for UNHCR to conduct protection monitoring of refugee returns.