Bangladesh + 1 more

UNHCR Bangladesh Operational Update, 21 February 2018 – 6 March 2018

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UNHCR and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) launched a project to prevent dangerous encounters with elephants, which have resulted in at least 10 deaths in Kutupalong settlement. The highly congested site lies on one of the migratory routes for Asian elephants.

Nobel Peace laureates Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland, Tawakkol Karman of Yemen, and Iran’s Shireen Ebadi visited refugee settlements in Bangladesh to raise awareness about the plight of Rohingya refugees. The laureates’ visit took place as part of the Nobel Women’s Initiative.

In the past two weeks, 623 families living in flood-prone areas of Kutupalong were relocated to safer parts of the settlement. UNHCR is working closely with the government and other partners to prepare for the upcoming monsoon season.

POPULATION FIGURES

  • 671,000* Estimated new arrivals in Bangladesh since 25 August 2017

  • 865,230 refugees, according to family counting exercise (figure pending verification)

STAFFING & PARTNERS

  • 219 staff currently working on the emergency compared to - 49 prior to the crisis. 147 are national staff

  • 23 partners compared to 7 prior to the crisis

* As reported by the Inter-Sector Coordination Group

FUNDING

  • USD 83.7 million

Requested for UNHCR’s initial emergency response from Sept '17 to Feb '18. Out of this amount, USD 26.4 million are the requirements for Jan-Feb 2018:

  • USD 16.8 M Received

  • USD 9.6 M Remaining needs

A Joint Response Plan, covering the period from March to December 2018, will be launched on 16 March 2018.

Arrival trends

Some 671,000 refugees have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since 25 August 2017, with the overall counted refugee population in the area of Cox’s Bazar reaching 865,230. Although the influx has slowed since the onset of the crisis, refugees continue to cross the border into Bangladesh, with a total of 3,236 new arrivals reportedly entering the country in February alone, bringing the number to over 5,000 newly arrived refugees so far in 2018. On 24 February 2018, the population in the Transit Center reached approximately 2,300 individuals, exceeding its capacity of 1,600 individuals. However, with support from the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BRCS), all newly arrived refugees have received shelter.

During interviews with new arrivals, around 80% of those interviewed cited family safety and security as the main reasons for their flight, and 43% cited restrictions on livelihood as another major reason, in addition to frequent raids and lack of food.

Planning for voluntary return to Myanmar

The governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh bilaterally agreed to an ‘arrangement’ on the return of refugees to Myanmar on 23 November 2017 and a corresponding ‘physical arrangement’ on 16 January 2018. These agreements outline important commitments by both governments to ensure the voluntary, safe and dignified return of refugees to their place of origin in Myanmar, and to commencing a process to address root causes in line with the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. While UNHCR was not involved in these arrangements, it is considered in both as playing a key role in assessing the voluntariness of potential returnees and assisting in any actual repatriation.

During his briefing on Myanmar to the Security Council on 13 February 2018, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, reiterated that conditions in Myanmar are not yet conducive to the voluntary repatriation of refugees. He stressed that the restoration of rights is key for their voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return. This week, UNHCR also renewed its call for unhindered humanitarian access in the northern part of Rakhine State and the implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, stressing that UNHCR’s offer to support to both governments in finding sustainable solutions for refugees remains open.

UNHCR is closely following the situation of a group of vulnerable people who have been living near the Tombru canal, in a so-called “no man’s land”, on the Myanmar side of the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh since the end of August 2017. This week, UNHCR expressed concern about their safety, after they were reportedly ordered to leave the area by Myanmar authorities. UNHCR reiterated that everyone has the right to seek asylum, just as they also have the right to return home when they deem the time and circumstances right, and that people who have fled violence must be granted safety and protection. Any decision to return must be voluntary and based on free and informed choice.

With discussions on returns regularly being reported in the media, refugee communities remain anxious about their future. Over the past months, refugees have frequently said that they will not consider going back to Myanmar unless questions of citizenship, legal rights, access to services, justice, and restitution are addressed.