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|2019 year-end results|
|784,000||refugees were registered|
|488,000||refugees were issued identity cards, many for the first time|
|362,000||refugees had access to 22 health facilities operated through five governmental and non-governmental partners|
|26||camps benefitted from UNHCR's legal services|
|99%||of refugees benefitted from regular distribution of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders and cooking sets, resulting in a reduction of the demand for firewood by 80% per household|
|2020 planning figures|
|100%||of people of concern registered on an individual basis|
|100%||of the programme priorities identified by the community are implemented|
|42,000||local community members benefit from projects|
|15,000||people of concern with specific needs receiving support|
People of Concern
Operational contextThe situation in Bangladesh remained a level-2 emergency for UNHCR. Bangladesh continued to host 855,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, all of whom were registered in a joint Government-UNHCR registration exercise completed at the end of 2019. Registration represented a key improvement in the protection of Rohingya refugees, providing them with identity documents, many for the first time, and a crucial tool to use to establish their right to return to Myanmar.
Other positive developments in the protection environment included improved preparedness and response for the monsoon and cyclone seasons, environmental rehabilitation, and support for the social safety net of host communities. These were made possible as a result of the relatively well funded 2019 joint response plan for the Rohingya humanitarian crisis, as well as World Bank and Asian Development Bank projects totaling $240 million and $100 million, respectively, focused on improving infrastructure, health care and education for refugees and host communities.
In August 2019, repatriation organized by the Governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar failed to materialize, due to a lack of willing refugees. Also in August, a large, peaceful demonstration by refugees marking two years since their arrival prompted tightened restrictions, including the downgrading of telecommunications in the camps, restrictions on volunteer and cash-for-work programmes, as well as the start of the construction of a fence around the perimeter of the refugee settlement. UNHCR continued to work with the Government to address security concerns, including through community policing and other community-based protection initiatives.
Population trendsThe joint Government-UNHCR biometric registration exercise led to the registration of 784,000 refugees in 2019. Among all refugees registered in the exercise, 54% were children and 52% were female. The exercise led to the closure of some 70,000 records from previous counting exercises, including the deceased and people with multiple records. Some 3,000 refugees arrived from Myanmar in 2019.
- Registration improved the efficiency and integrity of assistance distribution and facilitated more targeted protection interventions.
- 35,000 refugees were identified as having specific needs and were referred to specialized services.
- 7,000 refugees received direct support from community outreach members, who further conducted 14,000 emergency preparedness awareness sessions.
- Nearly 350 government personnel were trained on protection, camp management and marriage and divorce registration by government camp officials, with the support of UNHCR.
Unmet needsThe most significant unmet need remained the creation of an environment in Myanmar conducive to voluntary repatriation in safety in dignity.
In Bangladesh, policy restrictions remained in place on refugees’ freedom of movement, access to livelihoods, formal education, telecommunications and legal status, including the continued suspension of birth registration in Cox’s Bazar.
Because the joint response plan continued to be based on a single-year timeframe, gaps in sustainability remained, including a lack of durable housing to withstand inclement weather and make space in the camps, as well as long-term water supply for both refugee and host communities. The southern camps faced particular limitations in water supply and primary health care, while there were gaps in mental health services for all camps.
Working environmentBangladesh is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and it does not have domestic refugee legislation that regulates the reception and protection of refugees, however the Government and people of Bangladesh have demonstrated remarkable international solidarity by keeping their border open to those fleeing violence in the Rakhine state. Bangladesh welcomed approximately 725,000 stateless Rohingya refugees from Myanmar who fled an eruption of violence in late August 2017. UNHCR projects that there will be
some 900,000 stateless Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh in 2019, including an estimated 200,000 who fled Rakhine State in previous waves of displacement.
The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MDMR) and its Office of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) have been assigned to oversee the refugee response. A bilateral agreement signed by the Governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar on 23 November 2017 envisages voluntary, safe and sustainable refugee returns to Myanmar. The agreement between the two States also contemplates the engagement of UNHCR to ensure that international standards are met. On 13 April 2018, the Government of Bangladesh and UNHCR signed a complementary MoU on voluntary repatriation, which reinforces this commitment to international standards and establishes a framework for enhanced operational engagement when the conditions for return are ripe.
In addition to keeping its borders open, the Government is providing land, sharing its natural resources, expending health services and investing in preparedness through a national cyclone preparedness programme. Military and civilian authorities have played a key role in organizing relief distribution, logistics and construction, closely collaborating with UNHCR and partners involved the emergency response.
UNHCR will continue to advocate for the protection of refugees regardless of their legal status and location through active participation in, and staffing support to, the existing inter-agency coordination mechanism. UNHCR will engage with different humanitarian actors focusing on local partnerships and will enhance strategic collaboration with line ministries to enhance protection space for refugees. UNHCR will continue to play a catalytic role in engaging development stakeholders, including the World Bank, UNDP, IFIs, the private sector and civil society.
Any returns of refugees should be based on a free and informed choice. Potential returns must be in line with international standards of voluntariness, safety, and dignity, and must be sustainable. The timing and pace of returns should be determined by the refugees themselves. UNHCR will provide assistance wherever refugees have voluntarily chosen to settle, in places of origin or other places, with a condition that UNHCR has full access to the areas allowing robust protection monitoring by UNHCR.
Key prioritiesIn 2019, UNHCR will focus on:
- Securing the legal identity of Rohingya refugees which has been systematically denied in Myanmar;
- Strengthening the protective environment for refugees and ensuring their enjoyment of basic human rights;
- Improving the living conditions for refugees in settlements, while bolstering peaceful-coexistence with, and support for, host communities
- Empowering refugees and supporting the establishment of systems of governance that support resilience
- Establishing the foundation for solutions, including voluntary repatriation and alternative solutions, while establishing interim measures for refugees to live a safe and dignified existence.