Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July 2014, 09:43 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Bangladesh

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Bangladesh , 25 May 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/40b459330.html [accessed 30 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

At the end of 2003, Bangladesh hosted nearly 119,900 refugees and asylum seekers. These included nearly 19,800 Myanmarese Rohingya, most recognized as prima facie refugees by Bangladesh and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); over 100,000 other Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh since 1993, and who are considered illegal immigrants by the Bangladeshi government not assisted by UNHCR; 49 persons of other nationalities recognized as refugees by UNHCR; and 8 others Myanmarese with claims pending before UNHCR.

Some 240,000-260,000 Bihari, who moved from India's Bihar State to then-East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1947, were living in Bangladesh in refugee-like circumstances at year's end.

Over 61,000 Chakma and other Jumma (ethnic groups of which the Chakma are a subgroup) were internally displaced in Bangladesh. In August, Bengali settlers allegedly burned some 274 houses and 3 Buddhist temples – newly displacing some 1,500 persons – in revenge for the kidnapping of a local Bengali businessman in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

An unknown number of Hindus and other religious minorities from Bangladesh remained internally displaced or were asylum seekers in India as a result of post-election violence that began in October 2001, but it is unknown how many remained displaced at the end of 2003. Nearly 5,700 Bangladeshis sought asylum elsewhere during the year.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

In response to the Bangladesh Society for Enforcement of Human Rights' petition against the government, the Supreme Court ruled, "Everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution."

Myanmarese Rohingya

During the year, 3,200 Rohingya repatriated to Myanmar. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), who received over 550 complaints, and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported that the government imprisoned, evicted from homes, seized ration books for food and medicine, and threatened to physically attack or imprison Rohingya to force return. UNHCR acknowledged some coercion but disputed its severity, and the government denied it. MSF also reported that many repatriated refugees from Myanmar had returned to Bangladesh and were seeking shelter outside of the camps. Other NGOs reported that thousands of Myanmarese came to Bangladesh during the year, fleeing arbitrary taxation, extortion, restricted movement, and lack of citizenship.

UNHCR announced that as of December it would no longer participate in the repatriation of refugees to Myanmar. Since the government refused to grant refugees permanent status, UNHCR planned to encourage and assist self-sufficiency until the refugees could repatriate. A local Bangladeshi official reportedly told the South Asia Forum that this decision had caused officials to try to speed up repatriations of the Myanmarese.

In October government sealed the border fearing an influx of refugees following clashes in Myanmar between Muslims and Buddhists. In November, an estimated 6,000 fled to the border. After initially denying them entry, the local Bangladeshi authorities let them in.

Biharis

The Bangladeshi High Court recognized 10 Biharis as citizens of Bangladesh, after they sued to vote in the 2001 elections arguing that all Biharis born in the camps and residing in Bangladesh since 1947 were citizens, and that their citizenship could not be taken away simply because they lived in a camps or wished to go to Pakistan. The Bangladeshi Minister for Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs said that the government would comply with the court judgment on Bangladesh-born Bihari. Legal experts said the landmark judgment would help other Bihari gain citizenship. However, the government appealed the case and it was pending at the end of the year. Many Bihari still hoped to return to Pakistan, and at the end of the year the Lahore High Court was considering a Bihari's petition – opposed by the Pakistani government – to go there. (For history of Bihari in Bangladesh see http://www.refugees.org/world/countryindex/bangladesh.cfm).

Chittagong Hill Tracts

In July the government stopped providing rice rations to 65,000 indigenous displaced persons (collectively known as the Jumma people) while continuing to provide them to 26,000 Bengali settlers claiming that a shortage of funds motivated their decision, but in October the Prime Minister directed the authorities to resume the distribution. The minister for CHT Affairs stated the peace agreement 1997 between government and the representatives of the CHT inhabitants only required the government to provide rations for a year.

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