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Dhaka plans census for undocumented Rohingya

DESPAIR: An ethnic Rohingya refugee boy residing in Malaysia, waits with his mother near the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. A rumor about refugee status cards being issued by the UNHCR saw hundreds of ethnic Rohingya refugees throng the office. (AFP)

August 14, 2015

DHAKA: Bangladesh is to hold a census of hundreds of thousands of undocumented Rohingya who have crossed into the country seeking refuge from persecution in neighboring Myanmar.

Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque said the government had earmarked $2.7 million for the census to be carried out in Bangladesh’s southeast, near the border with Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

Official estimates have put the number of undocumented Rohingya in Bangladesh at between 200,000 and 500,000, in addition to around 32,000 registered Rohingya refugees living in two UN-managed camps.

“The procedure (census) will commence any time during the second half of this year,” Haque told AFP on Tuesday after briefing diplomats about the move.

The mainly Muslim Rohingya minority started crossing into Bangladesh in the early 1990s from Myanmar.

They say they face discrimination and mistreatment by that country’s Buddhist-majority government, which does not recognize them as citizens.

Their plight was thrust into the global spotlight this year when thousands of desperate migrants headed mainly for Malaysia had to be rescued from rickety boats in waters off Myanmar’s coast.

But the Rohingya are deeply unpopular in impoverished Bangladesh, and it is unclear how the government plans to use the data.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is assisting Bangladesh with the census, said it was a positive move for the stateless migrants.

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Rohingya Exodus