Rohingya refugees

Md. Mostafa Hosain


South Asian region witnessed partition, liberation war, foreign domination, ethnic conflicts, and political unrest, which have resulted in large-scale and cross-border population displacement.1 The partition of the Indian subcontinent (including present-day Bangladesh) in 1947 along religious lines led to the mass influx and further displacement in consecutive years.2 East Pakistan, which later became Bangladesh, hosted around 822,000 “refugees” by the 1950s.3 The mass exodus continued during the 1960s as well.4 The legal status of these migrant groups as “refugee” and the applicable legal framework to regulate them was an issue of foreign policy debates.5 The liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971 resulted in the mass movement of around 9 million people to India as refugees.6 The postindependence Bangladesh had been grappling with several episodes of Rohingya mass influx from Myanmar. Currently, Bangladesh is hosting more than a million Rohingya refugees.7 Despite Bangladesh’s historical involvement with refugees-both as a host state and as a state of origin - the country has neither ratified the Refugee Convention of 1951 and its Protocol nor developed any comprehensive domestic law to address the issue.

The present chapter aims to examine the approach of Bangladesh, as a refugee host country, towards refugees in the absence of specific domestic law and binding international instruments. To that end, the chapter offers a brief account of Bangladesh's engagement with the relevant international legal regime, followed by an analysis of national laws and policies regulating refugees. Critically engaging with Bangladesh’s incoherent application of different laws, including various executive orders, the chapter argues that adopting a specific national law regulating refugees would help in developing a consistent approach towards refugees, thereby facilitating humanitarian response by national and international agencies on the ground.

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