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High Commissioner's Dialogue on Protection Challenges, 2008

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Protracted Refugee Situations

In 2007, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres established a process to facilitate informal consideration of global protection issues by UNHCR, states and other stakeholders. The first meeting of the High Commissioner's Dialogue on Protection Challenges took place in December 2007 in Geneva and discussed the connection between asylum and refugee protection and international migration. The second meeting of the Dialogue took place on 10-11 December 2008 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The 2008 meeting focused on protracted refugee situations and examined the challenges and opportunities for refugees and other stakeholders in camps, rural and urban contexts. The Dialogue moved forward discussions on the work that the UN refugee agency is pursuing in targeted protracted refugee situations under the auspices of a "Special Initiative on Protracted Situations." In particular, the Dialogue examined instruments that could critically affect and unlock protracted refugee situations. A concept paper outlining the key discussion points is available.

Two side events were organized. In one, an update was provided on UNHCR's follow-up of the results of the first Dialogue meeting last December. The second event provided the opportunity for a preliminary discussion on the challenges relating to refugees and asylum seekers in urban settings, an issue that will be the subject of further consideration in 2009.

See also the High Commissioner's Dialogue pages on UNHCR's French and Spanish language websites:

Deuxième réunion du Dialogue du Haut Commissaire sur les défis de protection, 2008

Diálogo del Alto Comisionado sobre los Retos de la Protección 2008




Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

In 1991, some 250,000 refugees from Myanmar's Northern Rakhine state fled by boat and on foot to neighbouring Bangladesh, where they were sheltered in 20 camps in the Cox's Bazar district. While the majority of these refugees eventually returned home, some 20,500 people – mostly Rohingya, a Muslim minority ethnic group – remain in two of the original camps.

Conditions in these camps are below standard, with many refugees living in overcrowded shelters in desperate need of repair. Frequent heavy rains inundate the area, further damaging shelters and spreading disease. Harassment and discrimination add to the plight of the Rohingya refugees, the majority of whom say that they do not want to return home until there is peace and democracy in Myanmar.

The UNHCR has expanded its routine protection monitoring in Cox's Bazar to address the problems of sexual and gender-based violence as well as trafficking of women and children. The UN refugee agency continues to work with governments, other UN agencies and non-governmental organisations to try and find a durable solution for the Rohingya refugees.

Posted on 27 November 2006

Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

Statelessness in Bangladesh: The Biharis

Some 240,000 Urdu-speaking Biharis spent decades living in appalling conditions in squalid settlements in Bangladesh. They were not recognized as citizens and had little hope of a normal life.

The plight of the Biharis, whose ancestors moved to Bangladesh from India following the 1947 partition of the subcontinent, stems from the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971. While many Bihari Urdu speakers subsequently relocated to Pakistan, up to 300,000 remained in Bangladesh. For many years, their legal rights as citizens were not recognized. Many lived in camps and open settlements and were, as a consequence, often denied access to education and had difficulty finding work.

In 2008, the High Court in Dhaka ruled that the Urdu speakers were nationals of Bangladesh. The government registered the adults as voters in time for the December 2008 general election and issued them with national ID cards.Today they remain a linguistic minority in need of better housing and employment opportunities.

There are an estimated 12 million stateless people in the world. Many are effectively trapped in legal limbo, often with limited enjoyment of human rights.

Statelessness in Bangladesh: The Biharis

Protracted Refugee Situations: Overview and Plan of Action

Read the report, "Protracted Refugee Situations: High Commissioner's Initiative"

Keynote Address by the Honourable Mizengo Peter Pinda

Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania

Revisiting the Problem

Standing Committee's 2008 report on Protracted Refugee Situations.