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“We do not believe Myanmar!” – The Rohingya Survey 2019

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In March 2019, Xchange returned to Bangladesh to conduct a survey with Rohingya refugees living in protracted displacement. - This is what we found.


The Rohingya have been fleeing persecution and ethnic cleansing since escalating waves of violence against the Rohingya people started in Myanmar in the 1970s; entire families started fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh in search of protection. Despite their presence in Myanmar dating back to the seventh century, the Government of Myanmar continues to deny the Rohingya their most basic human rights. This marginalisation and denial of rights was enshrined and legitimised through the introduction of the 1982 Citizenship Law. The Law introduced unobtainable and unrealistic requirements for minority groups, like the Rohingya, to be able to claim formal citizenship - thereby de facto excluding them the chance to be recognised as equal citizens. As one of the largest stateless populations in the world, their access to employment, education and healthcare, as well as movement within Myanmar, is fraught with extreme difficulty.

The most recent wave of violence hit the Rohingya in August 2017 when the Myanmar military began a disproportionate and indiscriminate campaign of ethnic cleaning which saw 745,000 Rohingya – most of whom were children – seek safety in neighbouring Bangladesh. Today, there are nearly a million Rohingya living in temporary camps in the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh.
For many Rohingya born and raised in the camps, Bangladesh is all they know. Despite this,
Bangladesh considers Rohingya as “illegal immigrants”, instead of refugees, and subsequently their access to basic human rights, such access to education, employment or freedom of movement, are severely restricted.

Nineteen months after the mass exodus in August 2017 the situation on the ground is moving from humanitarian disaster to a crisis of protracted displacement for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya that arrived since then, bringing with it new and pressing concerns. As such, Xchange decided to return to Bangladesh for a sixth time to speak first-hand to the newly arrived Rohingya awaiting solutions.

This report aims to understand how the situation has changed since the peak in arrivals in 2017, by building on the topics of our previous surveys, as well as identifying new concerns and areas of focus. We aim to provide statistical substance to what has historically been opaque due to the discrimination and isolation experienced by the Rohingya community, thereby contributing to better informed policy creation.