Although Bangladesh and Myanmar authorities announced they have a plan to start the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas by mid-November, it is unclear if it will really happen and, if it does, if it will have any impact on the overall number of refugees in Bangladesh.
An estimated 700,000 fled across the border in 2017 when the Myanmar army launched a crackdown on the Muslim community after insurgent attacks on security forces outposts near the border.
Since then, there have been thousands of births in the camps in Bangladesh, and Reliefweb reported on November 1 that people were still fleeing across the border.
Nearly 14,000 new arrivals were reported from January to October 1 this year. The website also reported that “many refugees have expressed anxiety about their future, explaining that while they wish to return, they would not agree to do so until questions of citizenship, legal rights and access to services, justice and restitution are addressed.”
It is highly unlikely that Myanmar’s civil and military authorities, which have repeatedly stated that the refugees are illegal migrants from Bangladesh, would agree to those demands.
And as of October 31, a total of only 24,874 persons have been verified as Myanmar residents through a joint Bangladesh-UNHCR joint verification exercise, which has yet to be recognized by Myanmar authorities.
Meanwhile, the refugees are living in crowded camps that are ill-equipped to handle cyclones with alarmingly limited options for relocation or evacuation.