Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh (BBN)-For the very first time, Bangladesh government has started a survey to determine the number of Muslim Rohingya refugees who have fled abuses and persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar over the past decades.
The February 12-17 survey is being conducted by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics with support from International Organization of Migration (IOM) focuses on socio-economic and living conditions of Rohingyas living in six southeastern districts of the country, reports the UCA News.
The survey will be followed by a census in March.
Currently, about 33,000 documented Rohingyas reside in two official camps in Cox’s Bazar district jointly administered by Bangladesh government and the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, depending on aid for survival.
Between 300,000 to 500,000 unregistered Rohingyas live in squalid informal settlements in Cox’s Bazar and neighboring districts, Bangladesh says.
The survey intends to improve lives and living conditions for Rohingyas in Bangladesh, officials say.
“Currently we are making a list of Rohingyas in the country, which will be finalized through a census next month. This is important because in order to improve conditions of a community we need to first determine their number and find out what needs to be done for them,” said Wahidur Rahman, statistics bureau deputy director in Cox’s Bazar district.
Rahman said that at the end of census, the IOM would provide identity cards to documented Rohingyas to enable access to basic human needs.
“Once the census is complete Rohingyas would get ID cards which would enable them to receive aid, avail them to education and health services and it will bring an end to harassment in the hands of police for entering and living in the country illegally,” he said.
Rohingya refugees say they are unclear about the motives but they cautiously welcome it.
“We don’t know what the government has in mind. Perhaps, they are planning to resume talks with the Myanmar government about Rohingya repatriation as Aung San Suu Kyi’s party has come to power,” said Harez Mohammad Tayub, 33, an undocumented Rohingya living in a Nayapara.
Bangladesh refused entry to boatloads of Rohingyas fleeing the latest bout of sectarian violence in June 2012.
The same year, the government ordered three international nongovernmental organizations to cease activities among undocumented Rohingyas, a move criticized by the UN and US State Department.
“Whether the government wants us to repatriate to Myanmar or offer recognition here, we want to get support including food, education and health, which are necessary for our survival,” Tayub said.
A Catholic priest from Chittagong Diocese, which covers the survey areas, told that he welcomed the government move.
“This issue is long overdue, but it’s good to see the survey is being done at last. The government might use the list for negotiation about their repatriation and also to help improve their lives here,” said the priest.
“Rohingyas are poor and marginalized, and they needs serious attention and support to live with recognition and dignity. We hope that the government would use the survey outcome to improve lives of Rohingyas,” the priest said.