New ID Card Policy Could Hit Rohingya Asylum-Seekers

Bangladesh, since 2008, has been working to introduce the national ID card. This would ensure that the Bangladeshi population enrol into education and find jobs through a channel that would be somewhat more ‘legitimate’ than one that has been employed since the onset of Bangladesh, namely through bribes and monetary persuasion.

However the Rohingyans, a group of people who have been thrown out of Burma by the junta due to their ‘non-adherence’ to the Burmese culture, will be negatively affected by this action. Fleeing to Bangladesh from the mid-90’s, they now have set refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf where officially 200,000 reside in.

These refugees will not be eligible to qualify for the national ID card which would instantaneously increase the already enormous gap between Bangladesh nationals and the Rohingyan community. They will be prevented access to a number of public services, no capacity to obtain birth registration, access to key health services or even micro-credit programmes.

But most importantly Rohingyan adults will be prevented from getting jobs, it will officially be illegal; as a result the community will find it challenging to find ways to support their family.

 “According to a report by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department, food insecurity…will worsen and become an acute and protracted humanitarian crisis if the unregistered refugees are unable to engage in income generating activities and humanitarian access is challenged.“

Bangladesh needs to come to some sort of solution to assist the Rohingiyan community; obstructing their rights to access of basic human components will only make matters worse for the nation.

Like Malaysia, the country needs to make full use of the habitation of the Rohingyans – they need to truly bring them into the folds of Bangladesh, as opposed to imprisoning them in Cox’s Bazar or Teknaf, which would not only help the Rohingyans to feed their families but also allow them to make economic and labour contributions to the advancements of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh needs to realise that they would be onto a win-win situation if they provided the Rohingyans more autonomy and gave them their God-given right to live.

To read more:


Morshed Mannan

Firstly, I think your first paragraph is misleading and depicts a skewed image of Bangladesh. Yes, bribery and nepotism have often plagued the country but in sectors like Education, we have moved ahead in leaps and bounds. We have had free universal primary education since 1993, free education for women up till grade 10 and have made free textbooks available to school children in both print and .pdf form ( A lot of non-Bangladeshis visit this website and I wouldn't them to labour under the impression that gaining an education in the country is either impossible/the reserve of a precious few.

Regarding the rest of the article, I agree that it is necessary for humanitarian aid to become available to the Rohingya community as well as the right to register births but asking for over 200,000 Rohingyas to be given unrestricted permission to work is a bit much. How many countries do you know off that would be willing to do that all at once - much less one that has the sort of endemic problems that Bangladesh has!?

The writer of the IRIN article mentions that if the Rohingyas continue to work illegally after the National ID cards are issued, then tensions between the locals and the Rohingyas will intensify. Then what will the situation be if it appears that Rohingyas are actively taking the jobs of locals instead? In a country of 162 million people the pressure on national infrastructure, utilities, services and the job market is already incredible. Not only will that pressure increase if every Rohingya of working age is allowed to work but the government will come under criticism for giving 'foreigners' employment opportunities when so many Bangladeshis already suffer from unemployment.

Giving the example of Malaysia is a red herring. As the IRIN article points out, the identity card provided in Malaysia was distributed by the UN and on top of that it hasn't conferred on them a right to work. Furthermore, even if they let them work in the future, Malaysia requires a great deal of unskilled workers to stoke its construction boom while Bangladesh has more than sufficient labour resources for its own development.

I don't think extending an ID card to the Rohingyas will be mutually beneficial. They might generate more income but it would seem as if it was to the expense of locals. A balance needs to be struck between addressing local concerns and guaranteeing the Rohingyas their basic human rights.

20 April 2011 delete