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The Rohingya Refugee Crisis: Environmental and Economic Implications for the Local Community in Bangladesh

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The Rohingya are an ethnic Muslim minority group who are denied basic human rights and citizenship by the Myanmar government. Since the 1970s, the Rohingya have been forced to flee across the border to Bangladesh in significant numbers from northern Rakhine State due to religious, cultural and political persecution. Bangladesh has faced an ongoing refugee crisis ever since. From 25 August 2017 the cross-border situation deteriorated rapidly, with eight hundred thousand fleeing Myanmar over the subsequent months. In June 2018, more than one million Rohingya refugees were living in refugee camps and different settlement areas in the Cox’s Bazar District of Bangladesh

This placed intolerable burdens on the local population as well as local authorities and the national government.

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The report titled “Impacts of the Rohingya Refugee Influx on Host Communities” explores the socio- economic effect on host community, covering prices, wages and poverty incidence. It also discusses the impact on environment and livelihood. The study further explores the impact on public service, public goods delivery, social safety net and social cohesion in host communities

The findings of the report emphasises that the stress resulting from such a huge influx has created the need for increased focus on host communities. The report advances a case for integrating humanitarian efforts into a longer-term development perspective for the whole district, that will benefit the local community as well as refugees, who in most likelihood will stay in the area for a protracted period. The report suggests better coordination and collaboration among the government and agencies working in Cox’s Bazar in widening livelihood support programmes for the host community. “The findings of the impact assessment study will help the government and other development organisations including UN agencies to design longer-term development programmes in Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban districts,” Foreign Minister A. K. Abdul Momen pointed out. “We hope that it would allow us to adopt a robust mitigation strategy and action plan for maximising welfare of people from all spectrums in a larger area.” “The massive influx of refugees immediately emerged as a severe humanitarian crisis, followed by a long-term development need for the host community in Cox’s Bazar. This potentially offers an opportunity to build back better,” said Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident Representative of UNDP Bangladesh. He further added, “It is needed to not only transition smoothly from the humanitarian phase to the post-crisis era but also to seize opportunities for: accelerated development; strengthened resilience and self-reliance; and for them to enjoy universal access to quality services, restored natural resources and decent livelihood opportunities. And for that displaced Rohingya women and men need to be equipped with essential skills.” Chairperson of PRI, Dr Zaidi Sattar pointed out, “Bangladesh has done more than its share of providing a global public good.” He added that the Rohingya influx has impacted almost every aspect of life for the host community – prices of daily essentials have risen by 50 percent since the refugee influx, wages of day labourers have decreased, over 2500 households fell below the poverty line, and 5500 acres of reserved forests and 1500 hectares of wildlife habitat have been destroyed.

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The Rohingya people of Myanmar have been subject to human rights violations through government-sponsored discrimination and violence. Since August 2017, an intensified assault by Myanmar authorities has resulted in a rapid increase of Rohingya pouring into Bangladesh, and the expansion of refugee settlements in the district of Cox’s Bazar has strained humanitarian and government relief efforts. Assessing Rohingya and host community needs is critical for prioritizing resource allocations and for documenting the rights violations suffered by Rohingya refugees. From March 15 to 18, 2018, we conducted a rapid needs assessment of recently arrived Rohingya and host community households. We collected data on demographics, mortality, education, livelihoods, access to food and water, vaccination, and health care. Among other things, our survey found high levels of mortality among young Rohingya men, alarmingly low levels of vaccination among children, poor literacy, and rising poverty

Denied formal refugee status, the Rohingya cannot access due protections and find themselves in a state of insecurity in which they are unsure of their future and unable to formally seek work or send their children to school (Mahmood S. S., Wroe E., 1850). While the government of Bangladesh explores the options of repatriation, relocation, and third-country resettlement for these refugees, it is important to ensure that they are not denied a life of dignity. It is in this context, and in the quickly evolving current scenario, that we conducted a rapid needs assessment in both the Rohingya and host communities in Cox’s Bazar to obtain systematic information on the most pressing needs among these two groups of people, with particular attention to the communities’ demographic profiles, education, livelihoods, finances, and aid. This study establishes the parameters for a series of planned participatory studies among the Rohingya aimed at better understanding their needs, their aspirations for their future, and their attitudes as rights-holders. Host community information will help establish a baseline to monitor the impact of this large influx of refugees on local services, wages, and well-being, and to help target interventions to meet needs in both communities (Lee Y., 2012).

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To conclude, the Rohingya refugees offer cheap labor as they have to earn for their own keep. This has upset the labor market’s wage pattern. The situation has placed Bangladesh’s local laborers in a crucial predicament. If the crisis (created by the Rohingya refugees) is not checked immediately, it will erode the present-day socio-economic structure of Bangladesh and strike at the fabric of this country. The country must be able to rebuild the capability of its national economy, prosperity, interests and defense. The Bangladesh government cannot handle this problem alone. All the global communities and organizations must come forward to help Bangladesh in resolving this crisis. The rights of the Rohingya people should no longer be neglected. Democracy should be restored in Myanmar by rehabilitating the Rohingya people in their own country.

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Mahmood S. S., Wroe E., Fuller A.. Leaning J.. “The Rohingya people of Myanmar: Health, human rights, and identity,” Lancet. 2017;389(10081):1841–1850. and.

Rohingya Refugee Crisis Response: External Update. International Organization for Migration, (February 2018). Available at https://www.iom.int/sites/default/files/situation_reports/file/Bangladesh_SR_20180202-08.pdf.

Darker and more dangerous: High Commissioner updates the Human Rights Council on human rights issues in 40 countries. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, (September 11, 2017).

Lee Y. The Union Report: Occupation and Industry; Census Report Volume 2-B. Myanmar: 2016. “The 2014 Myanmar population and housing census,” Department of Population, Myanmar Ministry of Immigration and Population. UNICEF, Rakhine State: A snapshot of child wellbeing, 2012

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