Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence and persecution in Myanmar. Housed in overcrowded camps, they lack adequate assistance and protection; the Bangladesh government does not recognise their status as refugees, and they enjoy few rights or freedoms. Although Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed a repatriation deal, any discussion of return is premature given ongoing violence in Myanmar and the widespread reluctance among refugees to go home.
Political and diplomatic progress to address the crisis in Myanmar has been minimal. China and Russia have blocked action at the UN, and the Association of South-East Asian Nations has been unable to develop a coherent position. The constrained policy environment in Bangladesh, the absence of any realistic prospect of safe and voluntary return and the lack of political progress to resolve the crisis in Myanmar all suggest that displacement will be protracted.
Past experience shows that, once a refugee is displaced for over six months, they are highly likely to be in exile for years. There is no reason to believe that this refugee crisis will be any different. New HPG policy brief argues that now is the time for operational organisations, donors and the government of Bangladesh to start preparing for the impact of long-term displacement. A three-pronged approach is needed, involving continued response to urgent humanitarian needs, the mobilisation of resources to support a longer-term developmental response and a significant shift in policy to enhance refugees’ rights and freedoms.