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Paper Title:

Humanitarian solutions to improve dignity and wellbeing for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Working Paper 008

Author:

Josh Hart

There are almost 1 million Rohingya refugees currently living in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. In what has become a desperate situation, these people are currently confined to government-run encampment with no realistic prospects of voluntary repatriation, integration or resettlement. They live in deplorable conditions, are unable to legally work or leave the camps, and are entirely supported by international aid.

The Rohingya have been fleeing persecution by the Myanmar government and military, otherwise known as the Tatmadaw, for decades. They suffer from a distinct lack of access to durable solutions—safe return to Myanmar is not possible and the prospect of local integration or resettlement to a third country is extremely limited.

Efforts on the part of the international community dating back as far as the 1980s to pressure Myanmar to address its lamentable human rights record have failed time and time again, and human rights abuses persist today despite political change and the arrival of ‘so-called’ democratic government in 2015.

While ending refugee crises invariably requires long-term political solutions, this article argues that where repeated efforts to pressure Myanmar to address its human rights abuses and create the conditions for safe and voluntary repatriation have proven ineffective, more attention should be paid to shorter-term humanitarian solutions.

Potential interim strategies designed to increase self-sufficiency, dignity and wellbeing are assessed with a view to developing a holistic strategy that can provide short- and medium-term support, while a longer-term political solution to what is one of world’s most severe humanitarian crises is sought.

This article analyses strategies proposed or implemented in three other camp settings—Thailand, Ethiopia and Uganda—to present a tailored solution for the Rohingya context.

The solution will involve a range of short- and medium-term initiatives designed to increase self-reliance through livelihood opportunities, access to land and the easing of restrictions on work and movement. Such interventions are critical to the survival of the Rohingya where longer-term political discussions have essentially stalled.

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