Compared to the significance of international out-migration of workers from Bangladesh for the nation’s economy and its long-term development strategy, immigration and refugee protection are not high on the political agenda. Since the 1960s, Bangladesh always had a negative net migration rate – emigrants continuously outnumbered immigrant flows
Table 5: Top 10 countries of origin of international migrants living in Bangladesh, 2013
|Country of Origin||Number|
|5||Lao People's Democratic Republic||86,526|
|6||United States of America||45,158|
|9||Great Britain and Northern Ireland||32,852|
Source: Calculated from UN (2013), Trends in International Migrant Stock, the 2013 Revision, Table Migrants by Destination and Origin, UN database, New York: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, Externer Link: http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/data/estimates2/estimatesorigin.shtml (accessed: 8-16-2015).
The problems of two minority groups in Bangladesh need mentioning. First, there are the Biharis, Urdu-speaking Muslims who migrated from the Hindu-dominated Indian state of Bihar to former East Pakistan at the time of India’s Partition in 1947. During the civil war in Bangladesh they fought alongside troops from West Pakistan. After Bangladesh’s independence in 1971, they remained in the newly formed nation, but still opted for a Pakistani citizenship. They were settled in numerous refugee camps all over the country, and since then have been excluded from society and from access to social and educational services. In 2008, the 250,000 Biharis who live all over the country were granted national identity cards with which they could participate in the elections. Even today, however, some of them are not recognized as full Bangladeshi citizens. Many still consider themselves as "stranded" or stateless people
Second, there are the Rohingya, who have always lived in the region of the present-day border of Bangladesh and Myanmar. In Myanmar, they are regarded as a minority of Bengali-speaking Muslims. They do not have full citizen rights and are subject to repressive state practices, political harassment and social exclusion. In 1978, some 200,000 and in 1991/92, over 250,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh, which never signed the 1951 Geneva Convention for the protection of refugees. The support that the refugees received in Bangladesh was minimal. Some of the refugee camps that were established in the district Cox Bazar by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) still exist today and host some 2,600 people. Around 236,000 of all Rohingya refugees were repatriated to Myanmar in the mid-1990s, but returned "illegally" straight away. In total, about 200,000 refugees and undocumented migrants from Myanmar live in Bangladesh (see Table 5). Both recognized refugees as well as the "self-settled" Rohingya face economic exploitation, political harassment and social exclusion in the country. Between 2012 and 2014, the number of migrants and refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh who tried to reach Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia by boat tripled from 20,000 to 63,000. In May 2015, tens of thousands of these "irregular" migrants were trapped in the border region between Thailand and Malaysia or spent weeks floating in boats in the Andaman Sea. Besides ongoing violence against the Muslim minority in Myanmar, this humanitarian crisis can partially be explained by Bangladesh’s unwelcoming attitude towards the Rohingya refugees
This article is part of the Interner Link: country profile Bangladesh.