Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

The Search for a Lasting Solution

Between July 20 and 22, 1997, the Bangladesh government forcibly repatriated some 400 refugees belonging to the Rohingya minority of Burma's northern Arakan state. The repatriations, which drew international protests, highlighted the dilemma facing the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the international community in addressing the Rohingya situation. Some of the 1997 arrivals reported that forced labor, arbitrary taxation, and the confiscation of Muslim property were continuing in northern Arakan, despite the UNHCR's presence. These abuses are part of systematic discrimination against Rohingyas, and amount to persecution according to criteria established by the UNHCR. Their exodus and the incidents following suggest serious flaws in the repatriation and reintegration program.