Loan Torondel, 21, worked with L’Auberge des Migrants in Calais for two years, helping to provide legal information and support and humanitarian assistance to migrants and asylum seekers in northern France.

© 2018 Loan Torondel
(Paris) – An appeals court’s confirmation of the defamation conviction of an aid worker on June 24, 2019 for an ironic tweet sets a dangerous precedent for freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said today. The case was a serious escalation in harassment and intimidation of aid workers in France

The Court of Appeal in Douai, northern France, found Loan Torondel, the aid worker, guilty of defamation for a tweet he published in early January 2018 and sentenced him to pay a 1,500 euro fine (about US$1,700), which it suspended, and ordered him to pay damages and court costs. It was the first defamation case against an aid worker in France for criticizing the French government’s actions against migrants. Torondel told Human Rights Watch that he would appeal to the Court of Cassation, France’s court of last resort.

“This decision against Loan Torondel is a worrying precedent and a blow to freedom of expression,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch. “It resonates as a pernicious intimidation against staff or volunteers for organizations that speak out against police abuses against migrants.”

In January 2018, while working for the Auberge des Migrants, which provides crucial assistance to migrants and asylum seekers in Calais, Torondel published a tweet criticizing abusive police practices toward migrants. This tweet, with a photo showing two police officers standing over a young man seated in a field, imagined that the young man was protesting against the confiscation of his sleeping bag in the middle of winter and that the officer replied: “Maybe, but we are the French nation, sir,” an allusion to a speech President Emmanuel Macron gave in late December 2017.

Torondel was prosecuted following a complaint by one of the police officers and was sentenced by the first instance by a court in Boulogne-sur-Mer on September 25.

Torondel worked with Human Rights Watch earlier in 2019, and the organization is about to resume the collaboration to research police practices during identity checks in France.

A volunteer operating in Calais, Tom Ciotkowski, was also prosecuted, for “insult and violence” after filming French police officers who were impeding a food distribution to migrants and asylum seekers by volunteers in Calais. But he was acquitted on June 20 by the Boulogne-sur-Mer court. 

Torondel's conviction and Ciotkowski’s prosecution expand on what aid workers have regularly described as harassment by the French police to hinder or prevent aid workers and volunteers supporting migrants and asylum seekers from carrying out their work in Calais.

The aid workers have reported repeated fines for minor infractions and parking violations, excessive use of identity checks, and temporary confiscations of mobile phones to look through or delete their content. In some cases, aid workers have reported being improperly sprayed with tear gas or pushed or insulted by police officers. 

Human Rights Watch, the French Defender of Rights, UN observers, and four associations in Calais reported abusive practices by the police in Calais, both against migrants and asylum seekers and against aid workers. Amnesty International recently published a detailed report on the criminalization and harassment of people defending refugee and migrant rights in northern France. 

Criminal defamation laws are a disproportionate and unnecessary restriction on free speech and create a “chilling effect” that effectively restricts legitimate as well as harmful speech. The UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and the representative on freedom of the media of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), together with the Organization of American States’ special rapporteur for freedom of expression, have called for the abolition of such laws.

The UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression has said that countries should take particular care to ensure that defamation laws – civil or criminal – “should never be used to prevent criticism of government” and “should reflect the principle that public figures are required to tolerate a greater degree of criticism than private citizens.”

“Obstructing assistance to migrants and bringing legal proceedings that criminalize the denunciation of abuses is a shameful tactic to deter solidarity,” Jeannerod said. “France should not go down this dangerous path, which reduces the working space of both aid workers and government critics.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Two Syrians walk along a fence near the Turkish-Syrian border in Gaziantep province, Turkey, November 30, 2016. Syrians who arrived in Turkey since late 2017 have been unable to register for temporary protection and receive basic services.

© 2016 Umit Bektas/Reuters
(Istanbul) – Turkish authorities in Istanbul and nine provinces on or near the Syrian border have stopped registering all but a handful of recently arrived Syrian asylum seekers. The suspension is leading to unlawful deportations, coerced returns to Syria, and the denial of health care and education.

The European Commission has recently praised Turkey’s asylum system and plans to release the second batch of €3 billion under its March 2016 migration deal which includes support for refugees in Turkey. European Union institutions and governments have stayed publicly silent on the suspension and other refugee abuses committed by Turkey, suggesting their primary concern is to halt the movement of asylum seekers and migrants from Turkey to the EU.

“While the EU supports Turkey to deter asylum seekers from reaching Europe, it’s turning a blind eye to Turkey’s latest steps to block and discourage people fleeing Syria,” said Gerry Simpson, associate refugee program director at Human Rights Watch. “But forcing Syrians who manage to get past Turkey’s border guards to live in legal limbo only risks driving them underground and onward to the EU.”

Syrian refugees queue for food aid in Gaziantep, Turkey on May 20, 2016. Turkey’s suspension of Syrian refugee registration blocks them from receiving such aid.

© 2016 Kyodo/ AP Images
The suspension of registration is Turkey’s latest effort to deny new asylum seekers protection. Over the past three years, Turkey has sealed off its border with Syria, while Turkish border guards continue to carry out mass summary pushbacks and to kill and injure Syrians as they try to cross.

Between early 2011 and the end of May 2018, Turkey had registered almost 3.6 million Syrians, making it the world’s largest refugee hosting country. That generosity does not absolve it, or its international partners, of the duty to help newly arrived asylum seekers, Human Rights Watch said.

In mid-May 2018, Human Rights Watch interviewed 32 Syrians in Turkey’s Hatay province about their attempts to register for a temporary protection permit in Hatay, Gaziantep, and Istanbul provinces. A permit protects Syrians from arrest and the risk of deportation. It also entitles them to get health care and education, to work, and to seek social assistance, including the EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net for the most vulnerable Syrians.

Syrians said Turkish police deported them in groups of up to 20 people for not having a permit and that hospitals and schools refused to take them in without permits. Some said they returned to Syria so they, or their relatives, could get urgent medical care. Others said they decided to return to Syria because only some family members had been able to register. All said, they lived in constant fear of arrest and deportation and severely restricted their movement to avoid the police.

Turkey is bound by the international customary law rule of nonrefoulement, which prohibits the return of anyone in any manner whatsoever to a place where they would face a real risk of persecution, torture or other ill-treatment, or a threat to life. This includes asylum seekers, who are entitled to have their claims fairly adjudicated and not be summarily returned to places where they fear harm. Turkey may not coerce people into returning to places where they face harm by denying them legal status or access to essential services.

On October 30, 2017, the Hatay governor’s office said that to discourage smugglers from helping Syrians enter Turkey through Hatay, the province would no longer register newly arriving Syrians for temporary protection permits. In early February 2018, Turkey’s Interior Ministry said Istanbul province would also no longer register Syrians.

Eight other provinces on or near the Syrian border have also suspended registration for newly arriving Syrians since late 2017 or early 2018, according to three agencies working closely with Syrian refugees, as well as a European Commission official and a Turkish public official who previously worked on migration issues. The provinces are Adana, Gaziantep, Kahramanmaraş, Kilis, Mardin, Mersin, Osmaniye, and Şanlıurfa.

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© 2018 DigitalGlobe and © 2018 Human Rights Watch

Since late August 2015, only registered Syrians who obtain a special travel permit have been allowed to travel within Turkey. In practice, the vast majority of Syrian asylum seekers enter Turkey irregularly through the few remaining gaps in Turkey’s border wall in Hatay province. Blocked from registering there, they are unable to lawfully leave Hatay province and travel to other provinces where registration has not been closed. This forces them to live illegally in Hatay province, or to use smugglers to reach other parts of Turkey, risking arrest and deportation.

According to three confidential sources, Turkey has rejected proposals for a new system that would allow Syrians arriving in Hatay, and to a far lesser extent in other border provinces, to register in other parts of Turkey where fewer refugees live.

Refugee agencies told Human Rights Watch that Turkey’s strict controls on international and local refugee agencies prevent them from finding and helping unregistered Syrians. This lack of aid agency monitoring means that there are no statistics or estimates on the numbers of Syrians denied registration, deported, or refused urgently needed services.

In response to a June 13 letter presenting the Human Rights Watch findings, the migration authorities in Ankara denied that any of the country’s 81 provinces, including Hatay and Istanbul, had suspended registration of Syrians. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told Human Rights Watch that as of mid-May, the authorities had reassured them that registration of Syrians was ongoing, including in Hatay and Istanbul. Other aid agencies that support refugees say that the authorities in the 10 provinces have only continued to process Syrians pre-registered at the time of the suspension, and to register urgent medical cases referred from Syria and babies born to registered Syrians in Turkey. Two refugee aid agencies also said that in some cases they have managed to convince the authorities in Hatay and Osmaniye provinces to register particularly vulnerable unregistered Syrians.

In early 2018, the authorities in Hatay opened a new registration center in Antakya. Representatives of three aid agencies and two Turkish security personnel working in Antakya said the center is exclusively for unregistered Syrians to request help to return to Syria, while registered Syrians can request help to return at other migration authority-run centers.

Turkey does not allow any independent monitoring of whether unregistered Syrians signing up for return are in fact returning voluntarily or whether they are effectively being coerced. In contrast, Turkey does allow independent monitoring of some registered Syrians’ decision to return to Syria.

Turkey should protect the basic rights of all newly arriving Syrians, regardless of registration status, and register those denied registration since late 2017. The European Commission and EU member states with embassies in Turkey should support Turkey to register and protect Syrians and press Turkey to allow all agencies working for refugees to freely assist and help protect all Syrians, including all unregistered Syrians.

“Unregistered Syrians in Turkey may be conveniently out of sight, but they shouldn’t be out of mind,” Simpson said. “EU states and the commission should speak up and support all Syrians in Turkey, not just those who got in before Turkey started driving them underground.”

Asylum Seeker Registration

The first Syrian refugees fled to Turkey in early 2011 and in the subsequent three-and-a-half years, Turkey adopted an ad hoc approach to their registration, without conferring a clear legal status with related rights. Although Turkey ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, the country maintains a geographical limitation that excludes anyone not originally from a European country from full refugee recognition. That means it does not fully grant asylum to people fleeing violence or persecution in Syria and any other non-European country.

In 2013, Turkey adopted its own legal framework on the protection of asylum seekers and refugees. In October 2014, Turkey also adopted a regulation under which it grants Syrians temporary protection. As of June 28, 2018, Turkey said it had registered 3,562,523 people under the regulation. Registered Syrians are entitled to assistance. Even though the regulation says Syrians who fail to register will not be deported to Syria and will only face an “administrative fine,” Human Rights Watch found that unregistered Syrians have been deported for not having temporary protection permits.

The Hatay governor’s office and the interior minister said registration has been suspended for newly arriving Syrians in Hatay and Istanbul. Refugee aid agencies and Syrians in Hatay’s main city, Antakya, told Human Rights Watch that police carried out mass arrests of Syrians in November and early December, just after registration was suspended.

Five sources told Human Rights Watch that since late 2017 and early 2018, migration authorities in eight other border provinces followed suit and turned away all newly arriving Syrians seeking registration.

As of June 28, seven of the provinces that suspended registration were in the top 10 provinces hosting Syrians: Adana, Gaziantep, Hatay, Istanbul, Kilis, Mersin, and Şanlıurfa. Together they were sheltering 2,422,804 registered Syrians, or 68 percent of the total in Turkey. The other three – Kahramanmaraş, Mardin, and Osmaniye – were sheltering 235,549, or just under seven percent.

Aid agencies say that, in practice, the authorities in affected provinces continued to process Syrians pre-registered at the time of the suspension and to register people with urgent medical needs referred from Syria. They also continued to register babies born to registered Syrians in Turkey, an estimated 306 each day. Agencies with first-hand knowledge of the suspension of registration in the 10 provinces say the registration of these Syrians may explain the claim authorities made to Human Rights Watch that eight of the provinces on or near the border registered a total of 116,059 Syrians between November 1 and June 20.

One refugee aid agency with close knowledge of registration procedures in all of Turkey’s provinces told Human Rights Watch that in a few exceptional cases, authorities in Hatay and Osmaniye province have registered children in urgent need of medical care, together with one caregiver. Another refugee assistance agency that sometimes deals with unregistered Syrians said that between late 2017 and late April 2018, it had convinced the Hatay authorities to register a few dozen newly arrived Syrians on an exceptional basis because they had specific needs, but that even then it was a “headache” to get them through police checkpoints to registration offices. Agencies estimate that as of mid-May, the total number of such vulnerable cases of unregistered Syrians whom the authorities have registered on an exceptional basis was in the low hundreds.

Turkey’s travel permit system for registered Syrians prohibits unregistered Syrians from traveling from border provinces to register elsewhere. Seven Syrians told Human Rights Watch they paid smugglers to drive them from Antakya, in Hatay province, to Istanbul to register. But security officials at migration authority offices in Istanbul told them registration had been suspended for newly arriving Syrians.

UNHCR and some diplomats in Turkey told Human Rights Watch they have been encouraging Turkey’s Directorate General for Migration Management to adopt a referral system under which authorities in Hatay, or other border provinces where Syrians first arrive, would pre-register Syrians and then refer them to other provinces where fewer Syrians live to register. Some EU member states have proposed that if such a system were to be adopted, the EU should help support job-creation for Syrians and Turkish citizens in the provinces to which Syrians are referred. But all attempts to convince Turkey to set up a referral system have failed.

Consequences of Suspended Registration

In mid-May 2018, Human Rights Watch interviewed 32 Syrian asylum seekers in Antakya, the capital of Hatay Province, and the first city most Syrians reach after being smuggled across the closed Turkish border. They said the authorities in Antakya, the nearby town of Reyhanli, and in Gaziantep province had refused to register them during the first few months of 2018. They also described how not having a temporary protection permit – or “kimlik,” as it is popularly called (a Turkish shorthand for identification card) – had affected them. Human Rights Watch explained the purpose of the interviews, gave assurances of anonymity, and obtained interviewees’ consent to describe their experiences.

All said they were turned away from registration offices at least twice. Only three said they managed to register after brokers bribed registration officials between US$300 and $500.

Most said officials simply said “no more kimliks here” or “no one gets a kimlik” and told them to leave. Two said they also tried to register in Gaziantep in April, but that saw a sign on the office that said “no kimliks.”

Four said that only some members of their family had been registered, leaving the rest in legal limbo and that as a result, the entire family was contemplating returning to Syria. One man said his sick wife was given permission to enter Turkey for emergency medical treatment in Antakya, and was allowed to register there, together with their newborn baby. When he and their five other children, aged 6 to 14, managed to enter Turkey and tried to register in Antakya, they were turned away.

Three Syrians said that Turkish police had previously summarily deported them to Syria for not having a temporary protection permit. One, a 22-year-old man from Aleppo governorate, said he entered Turkey in early April and was refused registration in Antakya. In early May, he said, police stopped him at about 8 a.m. near the Antakya bus station and asked for his permit. When he said he tried to register, but had been turned away, the police drove him to a local police station, recorded his personal details, and then drove him and about 20 other unregistered Syrians to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing and deported them. He said 15 of the 20 told him they had been caught without temporary protection permits in Istanbul and the other five said they had just entered Turkey a few days earlier and were arrested after arriving at a smuggler’s house in Antakya. A few days later, he managed to return to Turkey with smugglers.

Another former deportee, a 28-year-old man from Idlib, said he and his brother entered Turkey together in January and were denied registration in Antakya. He said his brother traveled with a smuggler to Istanbul to find work there, but Turkish police arrested him on May 17 and the next day, took him to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing and deported him.

On May 22, Human Rights Watch spoke to a 31-year-old man from Hama who said the authorities in Antakya had arrested his brother a few hours earlier, were holding him in the new center for unregistered Syrians to sign up to return to Syria, and said they were about to deport him. Human Rights Watch alerted UNHCR, which intervened and prevented the deportation.

Human Rights Watch interviewed four Syrians at the newly established center for unregistered Syrians who wish to sign up for return to Syria. They decided to go back because their relatives had been denied urgent medical care, or because some family members who arrived after registration was suspended could not register.

Two Syrians said they heard from other Syrians in Antakya about many cases in which the wives of men who had been deported told Turkish authorities they planned to go back to Syria because they and their children could not survive alone in Turkey.

All of the 29 other unregistered Syrians interviewed said they lived in constant fear of arrest and deportation and said they heard of many cases involving the deportation of unregistered Syrians. Eight said they reduced their movements to a minimum, often staying at home for days at a time. A 17-year-old boy who said he never left his uncle’s house in Antakya out of fear of arrest said “this feels like prison.”

Three unregistered Syrians said they regularly use Syrian-owned driving services which use back roads to avoid police checkpoints or informal police stop-and-search patrols in Antakya.

Nine said they attempted to get medical treatment in clinics and hospitals in Antakya, but had been refused treatment because they were not registered. Four others said they did not even try to access medical care, because they heard others were turned away, and because they were afraid local hospitals would call the police to arrest them for not having a permit.

A 27-year-old woman from Idlib province seeking cancer treatment said two hospitals in Antakya refused to treat her because she did not have a permit.

A 34-year-old, eight months’ pregnant woman from Aleppo, with four children all born by caesarean section, said she was too afraid to go to the local hospital to ask for a checkup and prepare for her delivery, because she had been told hospitals turn away unregistered Syrians and was afraid of being arrested and returned to Syria.

Similarly, a 31-year-old woman whose entire family was refused registration in March said her husband was extremely sick with a serious lung condition, but he would not go to a hospital out of fear of being arrested and deported. She said he never left the house and lived in constant fear of being discovered.

A nongovernmental organization working with Syrians in Hatay province said that during the first few months of 2018, they heard of dozens of cases of Syrians in Antakya seeking emergency medical care, many of them pregnant women, who were turned away by hospitals because they had been denied registration.

Six Syrians interviewed by Human Rights Watch said their children were unable to go to school, because schools would only take registered Syrians.

Nowhere to Turn for Help

The Turkish authorities consider Syrians denied registration to be in the country unlawfully. Nongovernmental groups working with refugees said the government only allows them to work with lawfully present asylum seekers and refugees.

Six organizations working with refugees in Turkey’s provinces on the Syrian border – which asked to remain anonymous for the staff’s security – said Turkey strictly controls and monitors their work in various ways.

Some said they must get special permission to assess registered Syrians’ assistance needs or to visit registered Syrians’ homes, in some cases in the presence of staff from the Ministry of Family and Social Policies. The agencies said the rules are applied in an ad hoc and unpredictable way, depending on the local authorities, and they are never certain of what refugee outreach activities are allowed.

As a result, they said, they found it difficult to identify Syrians blocked from registration procedures, including the most vulnerable, for example those in urgent need of medical or other care. They also said the situation in Hatay province – through which almost all newly arriving Syrians using smugglers enter the country due to continued gaps in the border wall – is particularly sensitive.

Because of the restrictions imposed by the Turkish authorities, aid agencies said they cannot proactively identify unregistered Syrian refugees. At best, they can only react if they are made aware of unregistered Syrians who are seeking help, or if they come across them by chance. They said they sometimes raise the most vulnerable of such cases with the authorities in the hope that they will allow those in urgent need to register.

One agency working in the border areas said: “It’s very simple, we can’t just reach out to registered or unregistered Syrians. We need approval for everything and we’d never get approval to help unregistered Syrians.” Another agency worker said: “We have repeatedly asked the authorities for permission to do protection outreach work, but we’ve been refused every time.”

Agencies said their extremely limited contact with unregistered Syrians means they can neither estimate how many unregistered Syrians now live in Hatay and other provinces, nor the extent to which the registration suspension has led to deportation and denial of service access. EU member states and other donors funding Syrian refugee assistance and protection projects in Turkey therefore don’t know the extent to which Turkey’s registration suspension is excluding Syrians from receiving help.

European Union Remains Silent

EU member states and the European Commission have remained publicly silent on Turkey’s registration suspension, as they have on Turkey’s long-standing abuses against Syrian asylum seekers at the border.

Turkey’s suspension of registration could drive many Syrians underground and onward to the EU, or coerce them into going back to Syria. The suspension, Turkey’s ongoing border abuses, and its recent abuses against Afghan asylum seekers means that any attempts to return Syrians from Greece to Turkey is also likely to be met with significant resistance by lawyers challenging return attempts on the grounds that Turkey is not a safe third country to which to return asylum seekers.

On April 17, the European Commission released its latest update on whether Turkey is meeting the EU’s criteria for becoming an EU member state. As part of its assessment of Turkey’s asylum system, the commission said: “There have been reports of alleged expulsions, returns and deportations of Syrian nationals, in contradiction of the non-refoulement principle,” without going into any further details or citing the sources.

In March, the European Commission promised to release the second batch of €3 billion under its March 2016 deal with Turkey. Under the deal, the EU maintains that Turkey is a safe country to which to return Syrian asylum seekers. In fact, Turkey does not meet the EU safe third country criteria.

Recommendations

Turkey should resume temporary protection registration for all newly arriving Syrians and register those denied access to registration since late 2017. If necessary, Turkey should pre-register Syrians in its provinces on the Syrian border and require Syrians to move to, and live in, other provinces with fewer Syrians. In the meantime, Turkey should instruct all medical facilities to provide emergency medical treatment to any Syrian in need, regardless of registration status. Schools should also take in Syrian children pending their registration. All Turkish public officials should refer unregistered Syrians to the nearest registration center.

Turkey should also allow all refugee agencies working with Syrians to actively work to identify unregistered Syrians, help them access registration procedures, and raise with the authorities all cases of unregistered Syrians deported to Syria or denied access to health care and education.

To help ensure protection for Syrians in Turkey, the European Commission and EU member states with embassies in Turkey should press Turkey to resume registration of all newly arriving Syrians and guarantee their access to health care and education in line with existing policies. If Turkey requires help to resume registration, they should respond generously. They should also press Turkey to allow all agencies working with refugees to freely carry out protection monitoring work throughout Turkey to identify and assist unregistered Syrians and to publicly report on any abuses, including forced return to Syria, and denial of assistance.

Finally, the European Commission should proactively seek information and publicly report on credible accounts of killings, injuries, and mass deportations by Turkish security forces at the Syrian border, including in its regular reports on Turkey’s accession process and the European Agenda on Migration.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

A Turkish soldier surveys the border line between Turkey and Syria near the city of Kilis, March 2, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters/Murad Sezer
(Brussels) – Turkish security forces have routinely intercepted hundreds, and at times thousands, of asylum seekers at the Turkey-Syria border since at least December 2017 and summarily deported them to the war-ravaged Idlib governorate in Syria, Human Rights Watch said today. Turkish border guards have shot at asylum seekers trying to enter Turkey using smuggling routes, killing and wounding them, and have deported to Idlib newly arrived Syrians in the Turkish town of Antakya, 30 kilometers from the Syrian border.

The Russian-Syrian military alliance’s December offensive against anti-government forces in Idlib has displaced almost 400,000 civilians, according to the UN. They have joined more than 1.3 million others trapped inside Idlib in insecure, overcrowded camps, and in makeshift camps in fields near the closed Turkish border where they are under constant threat of attack and lack food, clean water, shelter, health care, and aid. At a March 26, 2018 summit meeting in Bulgaria, the European Union should press Turkey to allow Syrian civilians fleeing fighting to seek protection inside Turkey and pledge increased aid to Syrian refugees in Turkey and the region.

“As border guards try to seal the last remaining gaps in Turkey’s border, hundreds of thousands of Syrians are trapped in fields to face the bombs on the Syrian side,” said Gerry Simpson, associate refugee rights program director at Human Rights Watch. “The EU should press Turkey to open its border to those in need, and provide meaningful support, not silently stand by as Turkey ignores refugee law and pushes thousands back to face the carnage.”

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Border area where Turkish security forces regularly carry out mass deportations of Syrian asylum seekers.

Satellite data © 2018 DigitalGlobe; Analysis © 2018 Human Rights Watch
In response to these allegations, the Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM) in Turkey’s Ministry of Interior provided Human Rights Watch with a lengthy statement, which said, in part, that “while maintaining the security of borders against terrorist organizations, Turkey continues to accept Syrians in need coming to the borders, and never opens fire on or uses violence against them.”

The DGGM said that it registered 510,448 Syrians coming through the designated border gates in 2017, and 91,866 so far in 2018, and provided them with temporary protection. As seen from the numbers, the DGMM statement said, “allegations suggesting that Syrians are not registered are not true.” It does not appear that Turkish authorities conducted an investigation into Human Rights Watch’s specific findings.

In mid-February, Human Rights Watch spoke by phone with 21 Syrians about their repeated failed attempts to cross into Turkey with smugglers. Eighteen of them said that intensified Russia-Syrian airstrikes in Deir al-Zour and in Idlib had repeatedly displaced them until they finally decided they had no option but to risk their lives and flee to Turkey.

Those interviewed described 137 incidents, almost all between mid-December and early March, in which Turkish border guards intercepted them just after they had crossed the border with smugglers. Human Rights Watch spoke with another 35 Syrians stuck in Idlib who had not tried to escape for fear of being shot by border guards.

Nine people also described 10 incidents between September and early March in which Turkish border guards shot at them or others ahead of them as they tried to cross, killing 14 people, including 5 children, and injuring 18.

Civilians in Idlib have also been caught in the crossfire between Kurdish and Turkish forces during the offensive by Turkey in the Kurdish-held town of Afrin in Syria, north of Idlib, which began on January 20.

In November, the United Nations refugee agency said in its latest country guidance on Syria that “all parts of Syria are reported to have been affected, directly or indirectly, by one or multiple conflicts” and therefore maintained its long-standing call on all countries “not to forcibly return Syrians.”

Syrians who tried to enter Turkey said they were intercepted after they crossed the Orontes River or near the internally displaced persons camp in al-Dureyya. They said Turkish border guards deported them along with hundreds, and at times thousands, of other Syrians they had intercepted. They said the guards forced them to return to Syrian territory at an informal crossing point at Hatya or across a small dam on the Orontes River known as the Friendship Bridge that aid agencies have used.

Human Rights Watch obtained satellite images of both crossing points and of four security posts with large tents set up on basketball courts in the immediate border area where asylum seekers said they were held before being sent back to Syria.

The findings follow a February 3 Human Rights Watch report on Turkey’s border killings and summary pushbacks of asylum seekers between May and December 2017 and similar findings in November 2015 and May 2016.

In response to the February 3 report, a senior Turkish official repeated his government’s long-standing response to such reports, pointing out that Turkey has taken in millions of Syrian refugees. Human Rights Watch described its latest findings in a letter on March 15 to Turkey’s interior minister, requesting comment by March 21.

Turkey is hosting over 3.5 million Syrian refugees, according to the UN refugee agency. Turkey deserves credit and support for its generosity and is entitled to secure its border with Syria.

However, Turkey is also obliged to respect the principle of nonrefoulement, which prohibits countries from returning anyone to a place where they face a real risk of persecution, torture, or inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. This includes a prohibition on rejecting asylum seekers at borders that would expose them to such threats. Turkey is also obliged to respect international norms on the use of lethal force as well as the rights to life and bodily integrity.

Turkey insists that it respects the principle of nonrefoulement. “Syrians are accepted and taken under protection in Turkey and Syrians who have entered into Turkey somehow and demand protection are definitely not sent back and the reception and registration procedures are carried out,” the DGMM’s statement in response to this report said. “Syrians coming to Turkey are under no circumstances forced to go back to their own country; their registration is continuing and these foreigners can benefit from many rights and services in Turkey.”

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Map of the Turkey-Syria Border.

Satellite data © 2018 DigitalGlobe; Analysis © 2018 Human Rights Watch
As of December, Turkey had completed almost 800 kilometers of a planned 911-kilometer border barrier with Syria, which consists of a rocket-resistant concrete wall and steel fence. The satellite imagery Human Rights Watch obtained of the area where Syrians say they crossed with smugglers shows areas without a wall.

Turkey’s continued refusal since at least mid-2015 to allow Syrian asylum seekers to cross the border legally has been reinforced by a controversial EU-Turkey March 2016 migration agreement to curb refugee and migration flows to the European Union. The EU should instead be working with Turkey to keep its borders open to refugees, providing financial support for Turkey’s refugee efforts, and sharing responsibility by stepping up resettlement of refugees from Turkey, Human Rights Watch said.

“The EU should stop ignoring Turkey’s mass refugee deportations,” Simpson said. “The meeting in Bulgaria is a clear opportunity for the EU governments and institutions to change course and ramp up efforts to help Turkey protect Syrian refugees including through increased refugee resettlement.”

For more details about Turkey’s mass border pushbacks and the situation displaced Syrians face in Syria’s Idlib governorate, please see below.

Turkey’s land borders are legally protected by army border units of the Turkish Armed Forces. Gendarmerie also on duty at the borders operate under the authority of the land forces command. There are also gendarmerie stations near the borders charged with regular rural policing activities. This report refers to border guards without specifying if they are soldiers or gendarmes since many of those interviewed did not provide or do not have such specific information.

Regular Mass Pushbacks at the Turkish Border

Between February 14 and 20, Human Rights Watch interviewed the 21 Syrian asylum seekers who had tried multiple times to cross the border. Human Rights Watch interviewed them by cell phone and explained the purpose of the interviews and gave assurances of anonymity. We also received interviewees’ consent to describe their experiences.

They described 137 incidents – 107 of them between January 1 and March 6 – in which Turkish border guards intercepted them at the border near the Syrian town of Darkush and held them at nearby security posts and then deported them back to Syria with hundreds, and at times thousands, of others.

A man from Deir al-Zour governorate who fled Syrian government attacks on his village in September 2017 said border guards intercepted him nine times in January and the first half of February in border areas close to the al-Dureyya displaced people’s camp in Syria.

Describing three incidents in February, he said:

Each time they insulted the men, calling them “Syrian traitors.” They forced some of them to collect firewood. Then they took all of us in military trucks to a basketball court at a security post near the Hatya border gate. There was also a big tent there. They put us all in the tent and kept us overnight. They didn’t give us any food or water or let us go to a proper toilet. There were so many in the tent, that we were spilling out into the open of the basketball court. We were hundreds of people. The next morning, they took us all back to the border in buses.

A Turkish security base about 250 meters from the Turkey-Syria border, 2 kilometres south of the Turkish village, Saribük. The base has a basketball court and large tent, as described in statements by deported Syrian asylum seekers who said they were held in such a location before being deported.

© 2018 Digital Globe
Three Syrians said they were deported with thousands of others. A man from al-Hamediyah who said Turkish border guards intercepted him 11 times between September and January said that he was usually deported with about 500 other people. However, he said that on one occasion, in January, the border guards gave the people they had intercepted trying to cross from Syria numbers and his was 3,890. He said he was one of the last to be put on buses and taken to the border.

Many people referred to two deportation points that they said were between 10 and 30 minutes’ drive from the security posts where border guards had held them: one was an informal border crossing at Hatya, and the other was a small dam on the Orontes River called “Friendship Bridge.” Human Rights Watch obtained satellite imagery of both crossing points and of four security posts in the immediate border area where asylum seekers said they crossed into Turkey.

A woman from Hama governorate who repeatedly tried to cross the border said she was deported six times during the first two weeks of February with groups she estimated to be between 50 and 600 other Syrians:

The second time, on around February 4, the border guards took us to a military post and put us in a big tent with 200 other people they had already caught. Four hours later, at about 8 a.m., they put us in large buses and drove us to the Friendship Bridge. There they told us to get out and walk across the river back into Syria.

The satellite imagery Human Rights Watch obtained confirms there are gaps in the wall the full length of the Orontes River, west of the Syrian town of Salkeen, and at various points between the southern tip of where the river meets the border and the Hatya border crossing.

Deportations from Antakya

Three Syrians said Turkish police had deported them or relatives from the town of Antakya, about 20 kilometers west of the Syrian border.

A man from Deir al-Zour governorate said:

I crossed the border at night with my wife and two daughters and about 20 other people in late December 2017 near the al-Dureyya [displacement] camp. The border guards didn’t find us. The smugglers took us to their house in Antakya, about two hours’ drive away. There were 20 other Syrians already there and they told us they had also crossed from Syria that night. Not long after that, Turkish police arrived at the house. They took all of us to a police station and held us there until the next morning. They took our fingerprints and photos. Then they took all of us in police vans to the border at Bab al-Hawa and sent us back to Syria.

A man from Hama governorate described what happened to his wife:

The Turks sent my wife back from Antakya twice. She told me everything that happened. The first time was a week ago [about February 10]. The smugglers drove her and about 10 other people from the border near the Orontes River up to Reyhanli and from there they drove to Antakya. They reached the edge of Antakya at about 6 a.m. Turkish police shot at the car’s wheels to force it to stop. They beat the driver and immediately put my wife and the others in a police van and drove them to the border at Bab al-Hawa.

My wife crossed again four days later. The smugglers took her and about 10 others to a small house in a Turkish village near the border and then drove to a house in Antakya where there were already about 50 other Syrians who said they had arrived that night. Suddenly Turkish police arrived, at about 7 a.m. They wrote down their names and took photos. They put them in a big truck and took them to the Bab al-Hawa crossing. They held them there for the whole day and then sent them back to Syria.

Shootings by Border Guards

Nine Syrians interviewed described a total of 10 shooting incidents by Turkish border guards between September and March in which they said 14 people were killed and 18 injured.

In mid-February, a man from Deir al-Zour governorate said that in the previous five weeks he had tried four times to reach Turkey with his wife and five children. The first three times, he said, Turkish border guards deported them. The fourth time they turned back because Turkish border guards shot at their group as they approached the border:

A few hundred meters from the border near the al-Dureyya [displacement] camp the Turks suddenly started shooting at our group. They killed an 8-year-old girl and injured two men, one in a leg and the other in the stomach. I helped the man shot in the stomach turn back with the rest of us while the others carried the girl and helped the other man. Later the smugglers told us that a 13-year-old girl in another group trying to cross at the next time had also been killed during the shooting.

A man evacuated with his wife and baby from Aleppo in late 2016 said he unsuccessfully attempted to cross with them to Turkey three times near the al-Dureyya camp in September 2017 and January 2018 and was deported with hundreds of others the first two times. During the third attempt, in January, he said:

The border guards shot at us and injured my wife in her stomach and leg. She was pregnant and the baby died. They also injured two men and a 5-year-old boy, who was shot in the leg. We took my wife to a hospital in Syria near the border. Her heart stopped twice, but she lived. They couldn’t operate on her, so they sent her to Turkey through the Bab al-Hawa gate for surgery. They amputated her leg and removed her womb. They didn’t let me cross with her but a few days later a smuggler helped me and my daughter cross to Turkey.

Human Rights Watch also spoke with a doctor in a Syrian hospital near the Turkish border west of the town of Idlib who said that between August 1 and February 16, the hospital had received 66 people with gunshot-related injuries who said they had been shot while trying to cross the Turkish border.

Conflict and Humanitarian Crisis in Idlib governorate

According to the UN, about 2.65 million people are currently in Idlib governorate, over 1.75 million of whom have been displaced from elsewhere in Idlib or other parts of Syria, including almost 400,000 displaced since December. Civilians in Idlib have faced years of conflict. In September, Russian and Syrian forces began a fresh offensive in Idlib, three days after Russia, Iran, and Turkey had agreed to a ceasefire and “de-escalation” zone in the province and parts of Hama and western Aleppo. Human Rights Watch documented that attacks in September struck markets and populated residential areas and caused thousands of people to flee to displacement sites near the Turkish border.

Hostilities in Idlib halted on October 8 after Turkey deployed monitors there, but restarted in late December. In January, the Russian-Syrian military alliance carried out airstrikes to support Syrian ground troops. Some attacks involved prohibited weapons and targeted hospitals.

The Atma displaced persons camp on the Syrian side of Turkey’s border wall, where on February 6, 2018, during an exchange of fire between Turkish and Kurdish forces, a shell hit killing a girl and injuring seven others.

© 2017 Reuters/Osman Orsal
On January 21, Turkey started a military offensive in Kurdish-held Afrin, also putting displaced civilians at risk. Turkish and Kurdish forces have shelled each other on either side of Syria’s Atma displacement camp, on the Turkish border, which shelters 60,000 people.

Witnesses said that on February 6, during the fighting, shells hit the camp, killing an 8-year-old girl and injuring seven other civilians.

Human Rights Watch interviewed seven displaced Syrians about the incident. They all said it left their children terrified of the shelling and unable to sleep.

A father of seven children from Hama who lived close to where the shell landed on February 6 said:

I was there when it happened and rushed to help. I heard a young girl had been killed, but I only saw two who were injured. One had lost an arm and a leg and the other was blinded. I was so scared the same might happen to my children, we fled the camp and went to live in a field near the Bab al-Hawa border crossing. But we couldn’t stay there all alone, without help, so we had to come back to the camp. We are all scared now, all the time.

A father of four children said the incident had so shaken his family, he had returned to his still conflict-riven home town of Kafr Zita in Hama governorate because all other displacement camps in Idlib were full. As his house had been destroyed, he said, he was living in a field on the edge of the town and struggling to survive: “There is still shelling here but if we die, it’s better to die at home.”

Human Rights Watch also spoke with five Syrians who had been repeatedly displaced in recent months within Idlib to escape the shifting front line and who, as of mid-February, were living as close as possible to the Turkish border in the hope of escaping the fighting.

The UN says that since December, the violence has displaced at least 385,000 people who have joined 2.65 million other civilians, including 1.35 million civilians displaced in the past few years.

In mid-February, Human Rights Watch interviewed two aid officials working in Idlib governorate. One summarized the dire humanitarian situation:

There is no more room anywhere for people displaced in the past few months. Displacement camps are completely full and we [humanitarians] do not have the resources to properly address basic needs of water, food, heating, health care, and education. Rent has skyrocketed so people end up living in the tens of thousands on the edge of towns and villages in fields in makeshift camps. There is simply no way the aid agencies can help all these people. At best they can give very limited help once in a while to some of them, and it is not done in an organized way. There is suffering everywhere, in every camp and in every village.

The 56 displaced Syrians in Idlib that Human Rights Watch interviewed, including 42 displaced by the recent violence, all described the extremely difficult conditions they had faced in Idlib in previous months. The newly displaced said they had heard that displacement camps were completely full and that they could not afford to pay the extremely high rents in the towns and villages in the area. They ended up living in waterlogged fields across Idlib governorate, often with other families in makeshift tents made from sacks and other material sewed together, because they could not afford to buy proper tents.

They said they struggled to find food and had to pay high fees for water, delivered by trucks. They either had seen no one from an aid agency, or those who had, said they were unable to help or had promised help but hadn’t returned.

Turkish authorities have allowed Turkish and international aid groups based in Turkey to cross into Syria and join Syrian aid groups to distribute tents and other assistance to Syrians in camps in border areas. Human Rights Watch said that allowing much-needed cross-border aid is important, but does not absolve Turkey of its obligation to allow Syrian civilians fleeing fighting to seek protection in Turkey.

EU Silence

Human Rights Watch has documented that, since at least mid-August 2015, Turkish border guards enforcing the country’s March 2015 border closure have deported Syrians trying to reach Turkey. In April and May 2016, Human Rights Watch documented Turkish border guards shooting and beating Syrian asylum seekers trying to cross to Turkey, resulting in deaths and serious injuries, and sending those who managed to cross back to Syria. In February 2018, Human Rights Watch reported on further killings, injuries and pushbacks that happened in the second half of 2017.

On May 20, 2016, Human Rights Watch called on UN member states and UN agencies attending the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul to press the Turkish authorities to reopen Turkey’s border to Syrian asylum seekers. But neither the European Commission nor any European Union member state – or any other country – has publicly pressed Turkey to do so, while UN agencies have also remained publicly silent.

The world’s – and in particular the EU’s – silence over Turkey’s breach of the cornerstone of international refugee law condones Turkey’s border abuses.

The EU’s failure to take in more Syrian asylum seekers and refugees also contributes to the pressure on Turkey. The EU should swiftly fulfill its own commitments to relocate Syrian and other asylum seekers from Greece and, together with other countries, it should also expand safe and legal channels for people to reach safety from Turkey, including through increased refugee resettlement, humanitarian admissions, humanitarian and other visas, and facilitated family reunification.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

More than 13,500 asylum seekers remain trapped on the Greek islands in deplorable conditions as winter begins on December 21, 2017. Greece, with support from its European Union partners, should urgently transfer thousands of asylum seekers to the Greek mainland and provide them with adequate accommodation and access to fair and efficient asylum procedures.

Author: Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(Beirut) – Lebanese authorities should conduct an independent, thorough, and transparent investigation into the deaths of Syrians in military custody and allegations of torture and ill-treatment in detention, Human Rights Watch said today. On July 4, 2017, the Lebanese military issued a statement saying four Syrians died in its custody following mass raids in Arsal, a restricted access area in northeast Lebanon where many Syrian refugees live. On July 14, Human Rights Watch received credible reports that a fifth Syrian detainee had also died in custody.

A Lebanese soldier at an army post in the hills above the Lebanese town of Arsal

© 2016 Reuters

A doctor with expertise in documenting torture reviewed photos of three of the men provided by their family lawyers to Human Rights Watch, which showed widespread bruising and cuts. He said the injuries were “consistent with inflicted trauma in the setting of physical torture” and that “any statement that the deaths of these individuals were due to natural causes is inconsistent with these photographs.” Human Rights Watch also spoke with five former detainees, who said that army personnel beat and ill-treated them and other detainees. A military officer told Human Rights Watch that the army was investigating the deaths and would publish its findings.

“While the Lebanese army’s promise to investigate these shocking deaths is a positive step, the promise will be meaningless without transparent and independent accountability for anyone found guilty of wrongdoing,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Anyone who supports the Lebanese army should support efforts to tackle such serious allegations of military abuse.”

Photos of the bodies of three Syrians who died in Lebanese military custody, provided to Human Rights Watch by their families' lawyers. © 2017 Private

On June 30, the Lebanese army announced it had raided two unofficial refugee camps in Arsal that day, and was met with suicide bombers, a bomb, and a grenade, resulting in the injury of seven soldiers. On July 15, the army released a statement saying that it detained 356 people following these raids. It referred 56 for prosecution and 257 to the General Security agency for lack of residency. A humanitarian organization official told Human Rights Watch that children were among those detained.

The Lebanese army regularly conducts raids on unofficial refugee camps in Lebanon, but has not responded to questions from Human Rights Watch about the purpose of these raids. The raids came amid calls from Lebanese politicians for the return of refugees to Syria and reports of an impending military operation against armed groups on the Syrian border near Arsal.

Human Rights Watch has not been able to confirm reports that Syrians died during the raids themselves, but a source in Arsal said the municipality received nine bodies, not including the five men who were reported to have died in custody.

The army’s July 4 statement said that four detainees who “suffered from chronic health issues that were aggravated due to the climate condition” died before being interrogated. It identified them as Mustafa Abd el Karim Absse, 57; Khaled Hussein el-Mleis, 43; Anas Hussein el-Husseiki, 32; and Othman Merhi el-Mleis. The army did not specify where it had detained them.

Human Rights Watch spoke with a family member and a close acquaintance of two of the deceased, who said that they had no known serious health conditions. Both said that the army gave no reason for the arrests and did not notify the families of the deaths.

On July 14, Human Rights Watch received reports that a fifth Syrian detainee, Toufic al Ghawi, 23, died in detention after the army transferred him to the Elias Hrawi government hospital. A witness in Arsal who saw the body before burial said, “Toufic didn’t look human anymore. His flesh was torn apart.” Human Rights Watch has not received photographs of the body.

Additional evidence supports the allegations of abuse and torture during the arrests in Arsal and at military detention facilities. A witness in Arsal told Human Rights Watch that he had seen 34 former detainees with marks on their hands, legs, and backs, and in one case, on a former detainee’s head.

Human Rights Watch spoke with five former detainees who said they were mistreated, physically abused, and denied food and water, along with scores of other detainees during four to five days of detention without charge before being released.

Human Rights Watch wrote to the military on July 10 to verify the number of those arrested, injured, or killed during the army raids; those still in custody; and the conditions of their detention, but has not received a response. Human Rights Watch also requested permission to enter Arsal to interview witnesses, but has not received permission. An army officer told Human Rights Watch that the army was not allowing “media organizations” to enter Arsal. Human Rights Watch shared its findings with the military and military prosecutor.

Under international law, Lebanon has an obligation to investigate deaths in custody and hold those responsible to account. Human Rights Watch and local human rights organizations have long documented reports of torture and ill-treatment by security services including the army. Impunity for violence is a recurring problem in Lebanon. Even when officials have initiated investigations into deaths, torture, or ill-treatment, they have often not been concluded or made public. Human Rights Watch is not aware of cases where military personnel have been held to account.

“The Lebanese public and the Syrian families of those who died in detention deserve a clear accounting of what happened to them and punishment for those found responsible,” Whitson said. “Unfortunately, Lebanese authorities have a history of opening investigations in response to public pressure, but failing to conclude them or publish the results.”

Photographic Evidence of Torture
Human Rights Watch received 28 photographs of three of the deceased men, taken at the Elias Hrawi government hospital in Zahle, from the law firm representing the families of the deceased. The lawyers said they were not able to locate Othman el-Mleis’s body. Dr. Homer Venters, director of programs at Physicians for Human Rights, who has expertise in documenting torture, reviewed the photographs and shared his report:

The photos reveal widespread physical trauma of the upper and lower extremities. The lack of defensive wounds suggests that these injuries were inflicted while the victims were restrained or otherwise incapacitated and the distribution of these injuries are consistent with inflicted trauma in the setting of physical torture. Several of the photos are consistent with lacerations caused from being suspended by the wrists. It would be reasonable to conclude that the deaths of these men is the result of in-custody violence, although the precise cause of death cannot be predicted based on the information and photographs submitted. Any statement that the deaths of these individuals was due to natural causes is inconsistent with these photographs.

Corroborating Evidence of Torture and Mistreatment of Arsal Detainees
Human Rights Watch spoke with five former detainees from Arsal who said they were detained without charge for four to five days. They said soldiers handcuffed them, hooded them with their shirts, put them on the ground in the sun, and stomped or hit anyone raising their head. “I moved my head up slightly, and immediately a soldier hit me with his boot,” one man said.

The men said soldiers then loaded them onto trucks “one over the other, as if they’re shipping potato bags,” and took them to multiple detention sites including Rayak Air Base in the Bekaa Valley and the military intelligence and military police bases in Ablah. At Rayak Air Base, they said, army personnel held more than 100 of them in one room overnight, denied them food and water, and did not allow them to use the bathroom. “They would beat whoever asked to go to the bathroom,” said a former detainee in his 60s.

They said that army personnel at Rayak beat, insulted, and threatened them and others. “They beat people, some with batons, others with the butt of a gun,” one said. “I saw one soldier on the outside poking one of the detainees from the window with a bent skewer. He beat him, then he started cutting his face…until blood came out.”

The men interviewed said they were finally transferred to General Security, the agency in charge of foreigners’ entry and residency, who did not mistreat them and released them. The former detainees said that the army never told them why they had been detained.

One former detainee, interviewed on July 11, said: “I had to leave my son behind [in detention]. To this day, I don’t know what has happened to him.” Lebanese law limits pre-charge detention to 96 hours.

Medical Reports
Human Rights Watch also reviewed medical reports for three of the deceased, dated July 1 and 2, and prepared by a forensic doctor at the request of the general prosecutor, concluding that they had suffered heart attacks and a stroke, and that the bodies did not show marks of violence.

A lawyer representing the families said she had received permission from a Judge of Urgent Affairs for a forensic doctor to examine the bodies, conduct an autopsy, and take medical samples to ascertain the cause of death. After she took the medical samples to the Hotel Dieu hospital in Beirut for analysis, the lawyer said, Military Intelligence personnel there demanded she turn them over, by order of the Military Information Directorate. She handed them over after the general prosecutor, Samir Hammoud, instructed her to do so. Following the military’s intervention, she said that the X-ray, CT scan, and autopsy results have not been released to her or made public.

The investigation into the men’s deaths is now before the military court, the family’s lawyer said. Human Rights Watch has previously raised concerns about the independence, impartiality, and competence of the Military Tribunal, where the majority of judges are military officers who are not required to have law degrees, and where trials take place behind closed doors.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(Erbil) – Iraqi forces have forcibly displaced at least 125 families said to have familial ties to affiliates of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), Human Rights Watch said today.

Sunni tribal groups (known as the Hashad al-Asha'ri), within the Popular Mobilization Forces (known as the PMF or Hashd al-Sha'abi), which are under the control of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and Iraqi soldiers forced the families out of their homes following the passage of a decree issued by local authorities. The families, all from Salah al-Din governorate, are being held against their will in a camp functioning as an open-air prison near Tikrit. The PMF also destroyed some of the families’ homes.

“While politicians in Baghdad are discussing reconciliation efforts in Iraq, the state’s own forces are undermining those efforts by destroying homes and forcing families into a detention camp,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “These families, accused of wrongdoing by association, are in many cases themselves victims of ISIS abuses and should be protected by government forces, not targeted for retribution.”

Video

Video: Local Authorities Displace Suspected "ISIS-Families" in Iraq

Iraqi forces have forcibly displaced at least 125 families said to have familial ties to affiliates of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). 

In August 2016, the Salah al-Din governorate council passed a decree stating that anyone proven to have been complicit or affiliated with ISIS has no right to return to the governorate. The decree also orders the expulsion of immediate relatives of ISIS-members from Salah al-Din for 10 years to life, and says that they are only allowed to return if they are deemed “safe.” The decree establishes a committee to seize ISIS-affiliates’ property and suspend their, and their families,’ provision cards. Families that kill their ISIS-affiliated relatives, or hand them over to the Iraqi authorities, are exempted.

One woman from al-Shakrah village, three kilometers south of al-Shirqat, said that PMF fighters forced her and her relatives from their home on January 7, 2017, because her husband’s brother had joined ISIS. She said that the fighters “forced our whole family of 14 people out and onto the truck. They didn’t let us grab even a change of clothing.”

Two women from the village of al-Aithah said that local PMF forces destroyed hundreds of homes with explosives after they retook the area on September 21, targeting not only some of the families they thought to be affiliated with ISIS, but also some families that had fled because of the fighting. Satellite imagery reviewed by Human Rights Watch showed that between September 23 and October 23, 220 homes in the village were destroyed by explosives and fire.

Before and after satellite imagesBefore and after satellite images

Satellite imagery shows the village of al-Aithah, outside Tikrit, Iraq, before and after the destruction caused by the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). 

Before: © 2017 DigitalGlobe After: © 2017 DigitalGlobe

Under the laws of war, parties to a conflict may only attack military objectives. The intentional or wanton destruction of civilian property is unlawful unless the property is being used for a military purpose. Destroying property merely to punish the population is always prohibited.

Iraqi federal authorities should investigate any intentional destruction or looting of civilian property, punish those responsible – including those in command control at the time of such acts who failed to prevent the crimes – if abuses are found, and compensate victims, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch visited the Shahama camp for displaced people, 13 kilometres north of Tikrit, on February 3, to interview families affected by the decree. Hussein Ahmed Khalaf, the camp manager, said that 362 families were there, of whom 237 had fled Hawija, a city 50 kilometers west of Kirkuk that is still under ISIS control. Those families had arrived when the camp opened at the beginning of January.

He said that over the next month, 125 families from the al-Shirqat area were brought to the camp. Human Rights Watch interviewed 14 people forcibly displaced with their families to the camp. They all said that PMF fighters, in the presence of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) with army vehicles, had forced them out of their homes. They said that they were prohibited from leaving the camp and from having mobile phones.

In a Salah al-Din news broadcast in January, Brigadier General Juma Enad Sadoon, the Salah al-Din operational commander for the ISF, said that he ordered the forced displacements of immediate relatives of ISIS members following the passage of the decree by the Salah al-Din governorate council. He said “ISIS families” were identified by other residents and through intelligence gathered by the security forces. He said he gave the order because of concerns about family members communicating with their ISIS relatives fighting in Mosul and other fronts and because of complaints from the relatives of victims of ISIS abuses. He said he would not stop displacing these families.

But most families who spoke to Human Rights Watch either denied they had a relative in ISIS or said that if they did, this family member was as distant as a cousin or brother-in-law.

Residents of Shahama camp speak with relatives through the camp fence. 

 

 

© 2017 Sami Hilali

On January 26, two videos were posted on a Facebook page covering news from Salah al-Din showing local PMF forces in al-Shirqat displacing families of ISIS suspects using army vehicles.

Both videos feature a female commander known as Um Hanadi of the local PMF of al-Shirqat known as the Group of Um Hanadi for Special Tasks (Tashkeel Um Hanadi La Mohmat al-Khasah). In one video, she and a group of armed forces are loading families they refer to as “ISIS families” onto at least two Iraqi army trucks with military license plates. The video shows at least two Iraqi military commanders, recognizable because of their red berets. One fighter and the cameraman identify themselves as members of the Iraqi military’s Division 17, Brigade 60. In the other video, Um Hanadi says to the camera, “It is an honor for me to clean and cleanse al-Shirqat with these elite forces.”

A New York Times article from January 29 about the camp quotes Salah al-Din’s deputy governor, Amar Hekmat, as saying that the aim behind the forcible displacement is, “to defy the terrorists and send a stern message to the families.” Salah al-Din’s First Deputy Governor Khazhal Hamad is quoted in the same article saying that displacing the families was a way of protecting them from retaliatory attacks by neighbors who lost family members to ISIS. “There are hostile feelings towards these people, and these feelings can affect the civil peace we are trying to achieve,” he said.

A February 28 response from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ human rights office to Human Rights Watch’s findings stated that the displacement was carried out by the Salah al-Din operational command in order to protect the families from revenge attacks; for security reasons linked to continued suicide attacks; and because some of these families may be sharing information about ISF positions with ISIS. It stated that the operational command was mandated with holding and protecting the families in the camp. Representatives of the PMF did not respond to questions sent by Human Rights Watch.

The article goes on to say that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi sent a letter in late January to the local governor criticizing the displacement and ordered governorate and federal government officials to resolve the issue. There was no indication he had called for the punishment of armed forces under his command that participated in it. Iraqi federal authorities including al-Abadi should continue to condemn the forcible displacement of these families and censure any state forces that participate in the practice, Human Rights Watch said.

Two of those interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that Salah al-Din’s Governor Ahmad Abdullah al-Jabouri came to the camp in late January and told them that he was working on a solution to secure their release, but that nothing had happened since.

It is a basic international standard that punishment for crimes should only be imposed on people responsible for the crimes, after a fair trial to determine individual guilt. Imposing collective punishments on families, villages, or entire communities is strictly forbidden and can itself be a crime, especially if it results in forced displacement.

Under the laws of war, forced displacement of civilians is strictly prohibited except in the limited cases when displacement is necessary to protect civilians or for imperative military necessity, and then only for as long as it is needed. Under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, it is a war crime to order such unlawful displacements of civilians during a conflict. Widespread or systematic unlawful forced displacement imposed as a policy of the state or organized group can amount to a crime against humanity.

Local governorate councils should reverse any decrees targeting the families of alleged ISIS affiliates in violation of international standards. Iraq’s parliament should issue a decree calling on the local governorate councils to rescind the decrees and on armed forces to cease the forced displacements, reiterating the unlawfulness of these displacements and stipulating that any armed forces who participate in the displacements should be censured.

“There is growing concern among parliamentarians and ministers about the forcible displacement of so-called ISIS families and what this will mean for reconciliation efforts in areas recently taken back from ISIS,” Fakih said. “That concern needs to translate into action before these destructive policies are mimicked across the country.”

Local Justifications for Displacement
Local leaders from Salah al-Din told Human Rights Watch that the forcible displacement of families of alleged ISIS affiliates was in line with jalwa, an Arabic term for eviction and a principle that entails the forced relocation of a clan to avoid friction if one of its members murders someone from another clan living in the same area.

Other local officials are taking similar measures to expel so-called “ISIS families.” In July, the Babylon governorate council passed a decree calling on authorities to demolish the homes of anyone proven to have participated in terrorist activities, deport their families from the governorate, and to authorize legal procedures against the families proven to have “concealed” their ISIS-affiliated relatives. Families from Anbar face similar difficulties. In July, local leaders issued a covenant saying that people who “promoted” ISIS are not allowed to return until their charges are reviewed. Individuals who did not renounce relatives who supported ISIS are only allowed to return home “when this situation stabilizes,” they said.

Identified with ISIS
Four of the 14 people Human Rights Watch interviewed were from al-Shakrah village and were brought to the Shahama camp on January 7 and January 26. Three were from al-Aithah village, 11 kilometers north of al-Shirqat, and were brought to the camp in early January. The rest were from three neighborhoods of the town of al-Shirqat and were brought to the camp on January 26, 28, and 29. Some were brought alone, while others said they were loaded into approximately 30 vehicles, some with up to 11 other families. Several said they had only the most tangential connections, or no connections at all, to people who had joined ISIS.

One couple said that their cousin, a member of Um Hanadi’s PMF group with whom they had a running land dispute for years, was the one that brought forces to their home and made them leave. They said they had no links to ISIS. Another woman said she was a nurse, and had continued her work at the local hospital under ISIS because she was the only female nurse and felt it was her duty to provide health care for women. Fighters brought her and her family to the camp, saying it was because she had been affiliated with ISIS, she said.

One widowed woman said that ISIS fighters forced her to marry off her 14-year-old daughter to one of their fighters after they took her village in 2014. According to the mother, the daughter married the fighter, who was subsequently killed, and gave birth weeks before she and the rest of her family were forcibly displaced. The woman said PMF and Iraqi soldiers displaced her and her family, including her daughter and grandchild, to the camp because of the forced marriage.

“They [the PMF] told me: ‘You gave your daughter to ISIS,’” she said. “But they do not understand our situation with ISIS and the pressure they put on us. We couldn’t say anything to them…I had no choice. I couldn’t say anything…ISIS became the government ruling over everyone. They’ve gone to war with every country. What could I do as a woman to oppose them?”

“As they drove us from al-Shirqat they were celebrating, it was like a victory for them,” said a man from the Jamia neighborhood. He said PMF and ISF jointly rounded up 28 people from his area and brought them to the camp on a convoy of dozens of cars, blaring celebratory music from their loudspeakers:

We saw all these cars and trucks suddenly pull up in our village, and I saw several Hashad fighters [PMF] knock on the door of my neighbors. Their son had been with ISIS. They forced them out immediately and into one of the trucks. Then came the knock at our door, and my mother-in-law opened and told the fighters that her son’s family, my husband’s brother, who had joined ISIS, lived down the road. They said to her, “But you are also related to him.”

Shahama Camp Conditions
Human Rights Watch observed that the families from Hawija and al-Shirqat in the Shahama camp are housed in tents in separate areas of the camp. The camp manager said that this was because of concerns over possible tensions between people who left Hawija voluntarily and those forcibly displaced from al-Shirqat over suspected family ties to ISIS suspects.

Shahama camp residents are not allowed to leave or to have mobile phones, and visitors are restricted. Residents at the camp from the initial wave of families from Hawija told Human Rights Watch that until the al-Shirqat families arrived they had been allowed to have phones, and leave the camp at will.

The camp receives assistance and support from four international aid organizations, but two aid workers said that most aid groups would not support a camp that is functioning as a holding site for forcibly displaced people, rather than a camp to which displaced people have gone voluntarily. Having visited about a dozen camps in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Human Rights Watch researchers observed significantly worse conditions in the Shahama camp than in the other camps it had visited. According to a senior aid worker and the camp manager, the camp has no clinic, no school, and lacks adequate sanitation services and food, water, and heating oil.

Destruction and Looting
A local sheikh from the village of al-Aithah interviewed in the Shahama camp said the PMF arrived three days after the Iraqi military retook the village from ISIS on September 19. Two women from the village said that the PMF forces destroyed hundreds of homes. One said her home was included and the other that she witnessed the destruction:

I saw them destroying the houses. They would destroy around 15 homes a day. For about 15 days the destruction didn’t stop in the village. My house was not destroyed when the army came, but…lots of neighbors’ homes were destroyed by the PMF. It was the local PMF destroying the homes. I saw them and know them personally as being from the local PMF.

She said the PMF targeted the homes not only of some families thought to have links to ISIS, but also some of those who had simply fled the area out of fear.

Local residents said that as far as they were aware, there were no airstrikes on the village after it was retaken, so the destruction could not have been a result of aerial attacks, and there was seemingly no military necessity for the destruction, meaning it most likely constituted a war crime. “We want the Iraqi government to show mercy on these women and children,” one of the women said. “Don’t act like ISIS, by destroying homes and displacing families.”

Several members of the displaced families also said PMF members looted their property. One woman from Tal al-Jumaila neighborhood in al-Shirqat said that the morning before she was displaced, PMF confiscated her cow without giving any reason. A man from Tal al-Jumaila neighborhood and another from al-Shakrah village both said fighters took their cars. The rest of the interviewees said that because they did not have access to their phones, they did not know what had happened to their property since they left.

Detention
Seven people interviewed said that ISF had arrested one or more of their family members, in one case a 15-year-old boy, on suspicion of ISIS affiliation either at their homes or at a checkpoint in the area, some as early as August. Six had not heard from their relatives since and all of them said that because of the ban on phones, they were unable to make any calls to see if they were still in detention or had access to a lawyer.

One man from al-Shakrah said he had been detained by ISF at a checkpoint near Tikrit because his brother had been an ISIS member, and was beaten for a day with electric cables while guards asked him how he could have shared a home with an ISIS fighter. That night, he said, they transferred him to the Salah al-Din operations room, and then to a prison in Tikrit. A few weeks later he was taken before a judge and ordered released, after which he returned to al-Shakrah, he said. On January 7, he and his family were forced to relocate to the camp.

Another al-Shakrah villager said that on September 24, 2016, more than 15 Iraqi soldiers and PMF members who were in the village told all the men and boys ages 15 and over to gather at the local school to be screened:

I gathered there with my 15-year-old son, as we were told. A soldier called out three names of men from the village and detained them. Then about 20 fighters wearing PMF patches brought 10 more men with masked faces to us, and started pointing at people at random, while the ISF stood by and watched. The PMF took away the 14 men and one boy, my own son, whom they pointed at, loading them onto military trucks. One PMF fighter was filming the group of detainees on his phone as they waited to load the trucks, and ordered them to bark like dogs.

They brought his son back after 28 days. The family confirmed with Iraqi army officers that his son was not on a wanted list, but five days later, PMF came to the home with a masked man who said the boy was affiliated with ISIS and detained him again, the father said. The father said he has heard nothing from him since and that on January 7, local PMF members in the village came to their home and said they were an “ISIS family” and had to get onto the PMF trucks and go to the camp.

Iraqi federal authorities should make efforts to inform family members about the location of all detainees. Iraqi federal authorities should make public the number of fighters and civilians detained, including at checkpoints, screening sites, and camps during the conflict with ISIS, and the legal basis for their detention, including the charges against them. They should ensure prompt independent judicial review of detention and allow detainees access to lawyers and medical care and to communicate with their families, Human Rights Watch said.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

After 25 years of vicious conflict that has cost countless lives and displaced millions of people, peace has finally broken out in south-central Somalia — at least that's what Kenya says. And the UN refugee agency, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has joined Kenya to tell the world it should now focus on helping as many refugees as possible to return home.

But I recently spoke with some of the estimated 320,000 Somali refugees in Dadaab, Kenya, the world's largest refugee camp. And it's clear that peace is the last thing some of those signing up for UNHCR's $400 repatriation cash handout are discovering.

A newly arrived Somali refugee is forced out of the queue outside a reception centre in the Ifo 2 refugee camp in Dadaab, near the Kenya-Somalia border, in Garissa County, Kenya, July 28, 2011

© 2011 Reuters

A number of refugees told me they had returned destitute to destroyed Somali villages without health care provision and schools, or faced danger as armed groups continue to clash in and around their villages, including towns. After doing their best to survive, they fled back to Kenya, once again as refugees.

One of them is "Amina," a 38-year-old single mother. After a decade in Dadaab, she decided to try her luck and returned in January 2015 with her five children to her village, Bula Gudud, in the Lower Juba region, hoping to rebuild her life.

She told me: "After two days back home, fighting broke out between government troops and al-Shabab [armed Islamist group]. I could hear the bullets. My children were so scared. They just ran around, trying to get out of the house." The following day, Amina fled to the closest city, Kismayo. She had no relatives there but hoped she'd find safety and work to feed her children. She found neither.

She and her family barely survived for nine months with other displaced civilians in Kismayo's appalling internally displaced persons' camps. After a man in a government uniform raped her, a common occurrence in the unprotected and aid-starved camps across the country, Amina gave up and 10 months ago begged her way back to Dadaab.

But her ordeal didn't end there. The Kenyan authorities have refused to re-register her and her children as refugees, and UNHCR has not reactivated her ration card or given her any food.

"If we send 1,000 people home under the voluntary repatriation agreement but we then register 1,000 new arrivals, we would not get the job done," a Kenyan government official in Dadaab told me

Kenya, Somalia and the UNHCR had signed an agreement in November 2013 on the "voluntary repatriation" of Somali refugees. It says that both countries and the UN would make sure that Somalis return voluntarily and safely and would get help to resettle back home. A few months later UNHCR said that "the security situation in many parts of ... Somalia [is] volatile [and] protracted ... conflict has had devastating consequences, including massive displacement, weakened community structures, gross human rights violations and the breakdown of law and order".

But Kenya has repeatedly referred to this agreement as evidence that it is time for all Somalis to go home, stressing that the UN agency should help Kenya "expedite" refugee repatriation.

Somali refugees have a collective memory of previous repeated attempts by Kenyan security forces to coerce "voluntary" returns. In late 2012, Kenyan police in Nairobi unleashed appalling abuses in an effort to enforce an illegal directive to drive tens of thousands of urban Somali refugees into the Dadaab camps and from there back to Somalia. In April 2014, Kenyan security forces, primarily police, carried out a second round of abuses against Somalis in Nairobi and then deported 359 a month later without allowing them to challenge their removal.

In May 2016, Kenya announced that "hosting refugees has to come to an end", that Somali asylum seekers would no longer automatically get refugee status and that the Department of Refugee Affairs, responsible for registering and screening individual asylum applications, would be disbanded.

So far, thankfully, the Kenyan police in Dadaab appear to have been acting properly and the refugees told us they had not been harassed or directly coerced. But they are all aware that the government intends to close the camp by the end of November. Everyone we spoke to expressed the fear that those who do not take the voluntary repatriation assistance package now will be forced back later this year with nothing.

Since mid-2015, Amina and at least another 4,000 Somali refugees have either returned to Kenya after facing conflict and hunger back home or fled to Dadaab for the first time.

But with refugee registrations now closed, Amina and the others won't get food aid. Their survival will depend on the kindness of neighbours or relatives whose own rations were slashed last year by a third because of a funding shortfall. Amina and other returnees and new arrivals will also be the first to face arrest and deportation for "illegal presence" if Kenya shuts down Dadaab in three months.

International and Kenyan law require the authorities to make sure that anyone seeking asylum in Kenya is fairly heard and, if found to need protection, gets it. As long as Kenya continues to shred its commitments, Amina and thousands of others like her will languish hungry and destitute in legal limbo and wake up every morning wondering whether they are about to be deported back to the dangers that many have repeatedly fled and still fear.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Asylum seekers behind a metal fence in the ‘Hangar 1’ detention center, in Röszke, Hungary. September 9, 2015.

© 2015 Zalmaï for Human Rights Watch

(New York) – The massive refugee crisis demands an unprecedented global response. At two summits on September 19 and 20, 2016, at the United Nations, world leaders should take bold steps to share responsibility for millions of people displaced by violence, repression, and persecution.

Leaders will gather in New York to discuss providing greater support to countries where refugees first land, just as many of those countries are at breaking point. There is a grave risk to the bedrock foundation of refugee protection, the principle of nonrefoulement – not forcibly returning refugees to places where they would face persecution and other serious threats. People are fleeing violence in Afghanistan, Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Honduras, Iraq, Somalia, and Syria, among others.

“Millions of lives hang in the balance,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “This is not just about more money or greater resettlement numbers, but also about shoring up the legal principles for protecting refugees, which are under threat as never before.”

This year, Human Rights Watch has documented Turkish border guards shooting and pushing back civilians who appear to be seeking asylum; Jordan refusing entry or assistance to Syrian asylum seekers at its border; Kenya declaring that it will close the world’s largest refugee camp in November and pushing Somalis to return home despite potential danger; and Pakistan and Iran harassing and deregistering Afghan refugees and coercing them to return to a country in conflict.

The UN General Assembly has convened the September 19 summit “with the aim of bringing countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach” to refugees. The final statement, already drafted, is a missed opportunity to widen the scope of protection and limits expectations for concrete, new commitments. However, it affirms refugee rights and calls for more equitable responsibility sharing. Given the scale of the refugee crisis and populist backlash in many parts of the world, this affirmation should be the basis for collective action, Human Rights Watch said.

On September 20, US President Barack Obama will host a “Leader’s Summit” to increase commitments for aid, refugee admissions, and opportunities for work and education for refugees. Governments are expected to make concrete pledges toward goals of doubling the number of resettlement places and other admissions, increasing aid by 30 percent, getting 1 million more refugee children in school, and granting 1 million more adult refugees the right to work. Though the participants have not been announced, 30 to 35 countries are expected to attend. Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Sweden, and Jordan will join the United States as co-facilitators.

Boost Humanitarian Aid to Countries of First Arrival
The vast majority of the world’s 21.3 million refugees are in the global south, where they often face further harm, discrimination, and neglect. Human Rights Watch called on countries of first arrival like Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Thailand, Kenya, Iran, and Pakistan, to commit to proposals to provide refugees with better access to work and education.

The world’s richest nations have largely failed to help countries on the front lines of the displacement crisis. As of September 9, UN aid appeals were 39 percent funded, with some of the worst-funded in Africa; the appeal for refugees from South Sudan stands at 19 percent. The regional refugee response plans for Yemen and Syria are funded at 22 and 49 percent.

Increase Numbers Resettled in Other Countries
Resettlement from countries of first arrival is a key way to help refugees rebuild their lives and to relieve host countries, but international solidarity is glaringly absent. In 2015, the UN refugee agency facilitated resettlement of 81,000 of a projected 960,000 refugees globally in need of resettlement. The agency estimated that over 1.1 million refugees would need resettlement in 2016, but projected that countries would only offer 170,000 places. Representatives of 92 countries pledged only a slight increase in resettlement places for Syrian refugees at a high-level UN meeting in March.

In the European Union, the arrival by boat in 2015 of more than 1 million asylum seekers and migrants – and more than 3,700 deaths at sea – laid bare the need for safe and legal channels for refugees to move, such as resettlement.  However, many EU countries, including Austria, Bulgaria, and Hungary, are focused primarily on preventing spontaneous arrivals, outsourcing responsibility, and rolling back refugee rights.

A July 2015 European plan to resettle 22,500 refugees from other regions over two years has resettled only 8,268 refugees, according to figures from July 2016. Most EU countries underperformed, and 10 failed to resettle a single person under the plan.

End Abusive Systems, Flawed Deals
The EU struck a deal with Turkey in March to allow the return to Turkey of almost all asylum seekers on the deeply flawed grounds that Turkey is a safe country for asylum; it is on the verge of falling apart. Australia forcibly transfers all asylum seekers who arrive by boat to offshore processing centers, where they face abuse, inhumane treatment, and neglect.

The EU and Australia should renounce these abusive policies. EU countries should swiftly adopt a proposed permanent resettlement framework with more ambitious goals and a clear commitment to meet them, Human Rights Watch said. They should share fairly the responsibility for asylum seekers arriving spontaneously, and help alleviate the pressure on Greece and Italy.

Governments also undermine asylum with closed camps, as in Kenya and Thailand, and by detaining asylum seekers, as do Australia, Greece, Italy, Mexico, and the United States.

While by many measures the US leads in refugee resettlement and response to UN humanitarian aid appeals, it has been particularly slow and ungenerous in admitting Syrian refugees. And it has had notable blind spots, as with its border policies for Central American children and others fleeing gang violence and its use of Mexico as a buffer to keep them from reaching the US border.

The Obama Administration met its goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year in the face of opposition from more than half of US governors and a lack of resettlement funds from Congress, but the US has the capacity to resettle many times that number. It should commit to meeting the Leaders’ Summit goals, which would mean doubling this year’s 85,000 total refugee admissions to 170,000.

Several other countries with capacity to admit far more refugees, including Brazil, Japan, and South Korea, have fallen woefully short. Japan admitted 19 refugees in 2015, South Korea only 42 aside from North Koreans, and Brazil only 6.

Russia resettles no refugees. The Gulf States do not respond to UN resettlement appeals, though Saudi Arabia says it has suspended deportations of hundreds of thousands of Syrians who overstay visitor visas. Most Gulf states, except Kuwait, have also fallen short in their response to Syrian-refugee-related UN appeals to fund refugee needs, according to an Oxfam analysis.

“Every country has a moral responsibility to ensure the rights and dignity of people forced to flee their homes,” Roth said. “When more than 20 million people are counting on a real international effort to address their plight, lofty pronouncements are not enough.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Bulgaria bears a “big responsibility” for protecting the European Union’s external borders and should do so “in full respect” of migrants’ human rights, says Europe’s senior minister for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos.

Bulgarian border police stand near a barbed wire fence on the Bulgarian-Turkish border on July 17, 2014. 

© 2014 Reuters

Speaking in the country’s capital, Sofia, Avramopoulos, the European commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, said Bulgaria had the EU’s support as well as his “personal commitment” as it seeks to police Europe’s outer frontiers.

But can Avramopoulos really be confident that Bulgaria will respect migrants' rights in the way he hopes? Its track record suggests not.

Take the case of 16-year-old ‘Abdullah’ from Afghanistan, who experienced Bulgaria’s “respect” first hand.

“When Bulgarian police saw us, we tried to run away,” he said. “They chased us with dogs and shot at us. There were five police. When they caught us, they started beating us. They kicked me and the others wherever they could reach. They did this for about an hour and threatened us with the dogs. They took my money and mobile.”

Abdullah (not his real name) is one of several migrants and asylum seekers who told Human Rights Watch about summary returns from Bulgaria, and violence both at its borders and inside detention centers in late 2015. These are not new problems; we also documented similar abuses in April and September 2014.

Yet Abdullah’s and hundreds of others’ similar testimonies have fallen on deaf ears at EU headquarters in Brussels. While Bulgaria has the right to protect its borders, it doesn’t have the right to summarily return people to Turkey or physically abuse them. By focusing on border protection, Avramopoulos missed the chance to press Bulgaria on violence against migrants and asylum seekers.

The commission should forcefully remind Bulgaria of EU laws and standards, and urge Bulgarian authorities to investigate these credible reports of abuses and bring them to a halt. Because ignoring Abdullah’s story won’t make the allegations go away, and resorting to violence is no way to manage the refugee crisis.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Bill Frelick, director of Human Rights Watch's refugee program, monitors, investigates, and documents human rights abuses against refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons, and advocates for the rights and humanitarian needs of all categories of forcibly displaced persons around the world.

Before joining Human Rights Watch, Frelick directed Amnesty International USA's refugee program and the US Committee for Refugees (USCR), which he served for 18 years. He was the editor of USCR's annual World Refugee Survey and monthly Refugee Reports. Frelick has traveled to refugee sites throughout the world and is widely published. He taught in the Middle East from 1979-1983 and was co-coordinator of the Asian Center of Clergy and Laity Concerned from 1976-1979. Frelick has a B.A. from Oberlin College and an M.A. from Columbia University.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Venezuelan children play in a refugee shelter in Boa Vista, Roraima state, Brazil, August 26, 2018.

© 2018 Lucas Dantas for Human Rights Watch

On December 5, Brazil’s refugee agency (CONARE) granted asylum to 21,432 Venezuelans . Until then, CONARE had granted asylum to a total of just 263. There are currently 224,000 Venezuelans living in Brazil.

In June, CONARE concluded that “serious and widespread violations of human rights” exist in Venezuela, paving the way for the mass recognition of refugee status under the 1984 Cartagena Declaration, which provides guidance to Latin American governments on the scope of refugee protection.  

CONARE based its June finding on a 25-page technical report on the situation in Venezuela that cited Human Rights Watch’s work thirty times. The report extensively quoted Human Rights Watch research showing compelling evidence of serious human rights violations committed by the Venezuelan government under Nicolás Maduro, including excessive use of force against journalists and protesters, arbitrary detention, ill-treatment of detainees that in some cases amounted to torture, and eradicating judicial independence in the country. The report also relied on our research on the collapse of Venezuela’s health system and a spike in treatable diseases.     

The Brazilian government’s historic decision – considered a “milestone in refugee protection” by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) – is a recognition of the rights and dignity that so many Venezuelans in Brazil have hoped for. We have spoken to scores of Venezuelan asylum seekers at the Brazilian border over the past three years, and with this decision, it feels as though they have finally received the protection, stability, and reassurance to start a new life that they desperately need.

CONARE should next make a prompt decision on the cases of 98,000 other Venezuelans whose requests for asylum are still pending. Other countries in the region should take note and follow Brazil’s leadership in providing legal protection to Venezuelan refugees.

Author: Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Video

Greece: Camp Conditions Endanger Women, Girls

Asylum Seekers Lack Safe Access to Food, Water, Health Care

(Athens) – Women and girls face relentless insecurity in Greece’s overcrowded Moria “hotspot” for asylum seekers and migrants on Lesbos island, Human Rights Watch said today, releasing a video that shows the dire conditions. The Greek government should take immediate action to ensure safe, humane conditions for women and girls in line with their international human rights obligations and standards for humanitarian emergencies.

As of December 2, 2019, the Moria Reception and Identification Center was holding nearly 16,800 people in a facility with capacity for fewer than 3,000. Overcrowding has led authorities, as well as some asylum seekers and migrants themselves, to erect shelters outside Moria’s fenced boundaries, first in the adjacent area called the Olive Grove and now in a second olive grove, which has no water and sanitation facilities. In all areas, women and girls, including those traveling alone, are living alongside unrelated men and boys, often in tents without secure closures.

“Just going to the bathroom feels too risky for women and girls in Moria,” said Hillary Margolis, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Their lives are defined by fear, and that won’t change unless the Greek government addresses the pervasive dangers they face.”

During research on Lesbos in October, Human Rights Watch found women and girls in and around Moria lack safe access to essential resources and services including shelter, food, water and sanitation, and medical care. Interviews with 32 women and 7 girls, as well as 7 representatives of aid agencies working on Lesbos, revealed a threatening environment, with few protections from sexual harassment and gender-based violence.

Women and girls said they avoid leaving their shelters or using the toilets, bathing, or waiting in food distribution lines due to fear. Parents said they do not allow their daughters to go out unaccompanied, including to attend school. “I don’t go out [of the tent] alone,” said Naima, 12, who lives in the Olive Grove with her mother and 14-year-old sister. “The men and boys looking at me, I don’t like it…. [If I need the toilet at night], I have to wait all night – I have no choice.”

Women with disabilities face additional barriers because the toilets and showers are far from their shelters over rough terrain or are not adaptable for people with disabilities. Aid workers handling cases of sexual and gender-based violence said protection systems are virtually nonexistent, exposing women and girls to high risk that has increased with overcrowding.

A high-level Greek official said during a call with Human Rights Watch that maintaining adequate conditions in the camps is impossible, especially following recent large numbers of arrivals, because Greece is hosting asylum seekers and migrants well beyond the facilities’ capacity. He noted the pressure on Greece and lack of support from other European Union countries. “Greece cannot be the gatekeeper of Europe, as it is being asked to be by the EU, and also be expected to respect human rights fully,” he said.

Conditions in Moria violate Greece’s obligations to migrants and asylum seekers under international law and fall far below standards of treatment developed for humanitarian emergencies around the world, Human Rights Watch said.

With the intent of facilitating speedy processing and return to Turkey under the EU-Turkey deal, Greece has adopted a “containment policy” that traps people in under-resourced camps on the Aegean islands while awaiting the outcome of their asylum claims or return, which can take months or even years. Combined with a lack of government-supported services, this creates an inordinate burden for aid agencies, which provide almost all camp services, interviewees said.

The government’s move in July to stop issuing social security numbers to asylum seekers exacerbates the situation, obstructing their access to public health services except in emergencies. Aid agency representatives said overwhelming demand means they sometimes have to turn away all but the most extreme cases for medical care and gender-based violence support. “Organizations just can’t respond anymore to the increased needs,” said one service provider. “People are being pushed to make horrifying decisions.”

Under Greek law, the authorities should identify “vulnerable” people, including pregnant women and new mothers, survivors of sexual and other serious violence, single parents with children under 18, and people with disabilities, and refer them to appropriate support services and accommodation. This may include housing in apartments outside of Moria.

Human Rights Watch interviewed women and girls who meet current vulnerability criteria but said they had not been screened for vulnerability or identified as vulnerable after weeks or even months, including survivors of gender-based violence, pregnant women, new mothers, women with disabilities, and women alone with children under 18. Since late 2018, staff resignations and shortages at the government agency conducting vulnerability screenings in Moria have led to lengthy delays in identification of vulnerable individuals, and resulting delays in any additional support.

The Greek government should urgently improve security and living conditions for women and girls in Moria, ensuring safe access to secure shelter, food, adequate water and sanitation, and specialized medical care. The government should identify and assist vulnerable asylum seekers and migrants on Greek islands, including survivors of gender-based violence, women alone with children under 18, pregnant women, new mothers, and people with disabilities. It should prioritize awareness-raising about existing services and availability of trained female interpreters.

Other EU countries should share responsibility for accepting asylum seekers and migrants, processing their asylum applications, and facilitating family reunification.

“Women and girls who have come to Greece seeking safety are finding the exact opposite at Moria, and the situation is only getting worse,” Margolis said. “The Greek government has a duty to make sure women and girls don’t have to hide in tents all day out of fear.”

For more information on risks for women and girl asylum seekers on Lesbos, please see below.

Additional Information, Accounts by Women and Girls

All names have been changed to protect privacy and security.

On November 20, 2019, Greek authorities announced plans to relocate 20,000 asylum seekers to the mainland by early 2020 from five Greek islands currently hosting almost 40,000 asylum seekers and migrants, a positive move. However, the government also plans to turn reception centers for identification, processing, and deportation, including Moria, into detention centers.

Rather than establishing blanket detention of asylum seekers and migrants in closed facilities, Greek authorities should ensure humane living conditions in open camps, in line with international and EU standards for reception, protection, security, health, and sanitation. In the meantime, they should urgently adopt measures to secure basic rights, services, and safety for women and girls in Moria and other island hotspots.

A new law that will take effect on January 1 reduces protections for vulnerable groups. They can be subject to accelerated border procedures, and some – such as people diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder – will no longer qualify as “vulnerable.”

Beginning in October 2018, a shortage of doctors, psychologists, and social workers from the Health Ministry agency in Moria tasked with conducting vulnerability screenings resulted in severe delays, incomplete screenings, or, at times, a stoppage of screenings altogether. Aid workers supporting vulnerable people at Moria said that this has caused a months-long backlogs in vulnerability screenings.

Insecurity

Inhumane and unsafe conditions at Moria have worsened since a December 2017 Human Rights Watch report on dangerous conditions for women and girls at Moria and in migrant reception and detention facilities on the Greece-Turkey border. Aid workers in Moria describe the current situation as an “emergency.”

Women and girls said that a lack of functional locks and privacy in toilets, bathing facilities, and shelters, as well as poor lighting, frequent outbreaks of violence, and lack of police assistance for security incidents create heightened risks. Faruza, 46, from Afghanistan, lives in a tent in the Olive Grove and said she worries about her daughters, ages 12 and 14. “We don’t have a door [on our tent] – anyone can open it,” she said. “I do not sleep at night. I just sit in the entrance.”

Heba, 27, from Syria, was sleeping in a tent in the second olive grove with her children ages 6 months to 6 years: “Inside [the camp] it would be safer because here you’re in the jungle and far from everything…. To go to the bathroom we have to go all the way around the main gate and inside. For sure I don’t feel safe.”

“There is no law here,” said Susana, 25, from Afghanistan, who is eight months pregnant and living in a tent in the Olive Grove with her husband and two other families. “You see the security, you see the police, but they don’t care. After something really serious happens – if someone dies – they come, but otherwise they don’t do anything. And there is nowhere you can go to report anything.”

Women with disabilities may face additional risks, especially if they lack access to necessary assistive devices. Samiya, 40, from Syria, who has a physical disability, said her leg brace broke en route to Greece, further limiting her mobility and increasing her vulnerability in Moria: “Every night there is fighting, I hear people running…. I can’t sleep because I’m afraid that if something happens people will run away, but I can’t run away – how can I?”

Sexual Harassment, Gender-Based Violence, and Lack of Protection

Many asylum seekers and migrants have experienced sexual or other violence in their countries of origin or en route to Greece. Representatives of agencies assisting victims of sexual and gender-based violence in Moria said incidents in the camp have increased with the growing population.

Under Greek rules governing reception sites, women traveling alone should be housed in separate, fenced-in sections within Moria. Human Rights Watch found single women living outside the sections, including in both olive groves. Multiple women said they were told the protected section was full and could not accommodate them until other women left. Data collected by an agency responsible for housing in Moria showed 361 single women housed in the dedicated sections and an additional 256 in tents outside the sections as of November 28.

Unaccompanied girls should also be housed in separate, secure sections. In Moria, a “safe zone” holds both unaccompanied boys under 14 and girls under 18. Human Rights Watch interviewed sisters ages 16 and 17 living in the safe zone who said boys and girls have separate toilets and showers but neither they nor the shelters have functioning locks.

“When I was alone, I went to the bathroom and a boy came and wanted to open the door and come in,” said Salma, 16, from Afghanistan. “I made a noise to show I was inside, but he continued.” The sisters said they usually feel safe in the section because they are together. “But I don’t know about the girls living alone,” said Afri, 17. A forthcoming report from Human Rights Watch details conditions for unaccompanied children living in Moria.

Human Rights Watch interviewed five women traveling alone who had been sleeping in the open without shelter inside Moria for up to nine nights, including two pregnant women and two with serious health conditions. They said they were told they could not receive tents because they should be housed in the section for women alone. Other women, some with children under 18, said they had spent up to several nights sleeping outside without shelter upon arrival in Moria. The two unaccompanied sisters said they slept in the open for one night before getting housing. A government representative denied that people including women and unaccompanied children are not given tents.

Single women living in tents amid shelters housing unrelated single men and families said they felt especially vulnerable to sexual harassment and violence. Zainab, 20, from Afghanistan, lives alone inside Moria with her 2-year-old son. She said a single man in a nearby tent regularly approaches her shelter: “One time he came and said, ‘You have to sleep with me.’ I said no. He tried to choke me. When he did this, I tried to scream. He pushed me and said, ‘You have to tell me I love you, I want you.’ I said, ‘Okay, okay, I want you.’ Then I ran out…. I thought if I changed my tent maybe another place [in Moria] would be even worse. But now I’m afraid because I don’t know what will happen.”

Even women living in the designated section said they felt unsafe because people housed elsewhere – including men – can enter the section and adolescent boys occupy sections immediately adjacent. They said they experience sexual harassment whenever they leave the section. Mina, 21, from Afghanistan, said authorities are unresponsive if she reports harassment or violence: “Last month, around 11 p.m. when I went to go back inside [the section], a man came and touched my body. I told the police, but they laughed at me and said, ‘You have to go inside and go to sleep.’”

Interviewees said there is an absence of systems to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, and that authorities often dismiss survivors who try to report problems or deter them from filing complaints, even in rape cases. Even if police do arrest a perpetrator, aid workers said, he would typically be released the next day and placed back in the camp pending a court case. They said that a dearth of safe housing options, such as secure shelters, makes it impossible to provide adequate protection for victims of domestic or other gender-based violence. “There are cases of rape where the victim has to go back to the camp, the same place where the perpetrator is living,” said one service provider.

“There is a huge fear of retaliation,” said another aid agency representative, which contributes to underreporting of cases.

International guidelines call for gender-based violence risk mitigation from the onset of crisis response, including through separate, secure accommodation for unaccompanied women and children. Authorities should also identify and monitor high-risk areas in displacement sites and implement responsive security measures.

Water and Sanitation

All of the women and girls Human Rights Watch interviewed said toilets and showers in Moria are unsafe, unsanitary, unhygienic, and inaccessible to people with disabilities, which Human Rights Watch researchers observed firsthand. Although some toilets are separated by gender, signage is unclear and in practice usage is mixed. Some women said they have to bathe in the same stall with the toilet, and that gaps in walls and doors may allow others to see inside.

Guidelines on prevention of gender-based violence in displacement settings call for hygienic, gender-separated toilets and bathing facilities with working locks, adequate lighting, and privacy. The Sphere Standards, a set of principles and minimum humanitarian standards developed by humanitarians, call for safe and equal access to water and sanitation facilities, including private bathing areas for women.

Women and girls said they take extreme measures to avoid using toilets after dark. “I stop drinking tea after 6 p.m. so that I don’t have to go to the bathroom at night,” said Zubaida, from Afghanistan, who lives in the Olive Grove. “I’m afraid to go alone because I see lots of men here. They can do whatever they want. They use drugs and alcohol. I’m afraid someone will rape me.

“One of the biggest problems is we have to go inside the toilet to take a shower,” said Faruza, alone with her 12- and 14-year-old daughters in the Olive Grove. “There is just a tube [for the shower]. There’s a lock inside but we don’t feel safe. If one daughter goes to the shower, the other daughter and I stand outside to protect her.”

Women with disabilities face additional challenges in accessing bathrooms. Samiya said that her leg brace broke en route to Greece, further limiting her mobility. “It is too difficult to go to the bathroom; two people have to go with me,” she said. “Most of the time I don’t drink water so that I don’t have to go to the bathroom.”

Samiya said her assigned tent was far from the bathrooms, but personnel in the camp refused her request to move closer. “Since I arrived [11 days ago] I haven’t had a shower because it is too far away,” she said. “I moved to share a tent with relatives because it is closer to the toilet, but it is still too far…. At night sometimes when I need to go to the toilet my sister and brother help me, but most of the time I go in the tent in a plastic jug.” Human Rights Watch saw firsthand that the walk to the toilets from both Samiya’s original tent and from the tent she shared with relatives required navigating steep and unstable terrain over rocky dirt paths

Pregnant Women and New Mothers

The government is failing to meet basic needs of pregnant women and new mothers, who said they do not receive adequate food or medical care. Human Rights Watch interviewed six pregnant women and one woman who became pregnant and gave birth while in Moria.

Women said they had not accessed comprehensive prenatal care, even for high-risk pregnancies. Fatima, 28, a mother of four from Afghanistan and nine months pregnant, said a heart problem put her in intensive care following her previous child’s birth. “I’ve had pain from the day I came here, in my back and belly – sometimes it is so painful I cannot eat,” she said, noting that she did not access specialized care despite telling personnel at Moria about the pain and her medical history.

Pregnant women said they lacked information about what would happen when it was time to give birth or whom to contact for help, and that a dearth of interpreters prevented them from communicating with medical workers at Moria. Health service providers said they offer basic prenatal and postnatal care, but that limited capacity and resources mean they cannot provide full monitoring for pregnant women each trimester. The Greek government should ensure access to comprehensive prenatal and postnatal care for all women, including migrants and asylum seekers.

International humanitarian standards call for prioritization of pregnant and breastfeeding women for access to food and cash assistance and additional bedding, clothing, and nutrition to meet their needs. Women in Moria said no such measures are taken. “They give you nothing different because you’re pregnant,” said Laila, 35, from Afghanistan and eight months pregnant. “When waiting in the [food] line, I have a problem – pain in my belly, I get dizzy. Sometimes I try to sit down in the line, but it isn’t really possible and no one helps me…. Sometimes I feel like maybe I will die – like I will lose the baby, or the baby will lose me.”

“When I was six months pregnant [in July], it was really hot and I felt I would lose the baby,” said Zarifa, who had a 10-day-old baby and had been in Moria for 11 months. “I went again to [people she believed were humanitarian agency workers in the camp] and said I couldn’t handle it. They said, ‘You are not really a seriously vulnerable case.’ We never got an apartment [outside Moria] – we applied months ago, but we are still here.”

Food and Cash Assistance

Many women, including pregnant women and single mothers, said they spend hours in food distribution lines only to be told there is no food left. Seven women said they faced waits of seven to eight months for cash assistance, leaving them without any financial resources and unable to buy food or goods they do not receive through distributions. Human Rights Watch saw multiple asylum seekers’ cash assistance appointment slips with dates in June 2020 – meaning they could not receive cash assistance until after that date. Representatives of the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said they reinforced staff capacity in late October 2019 to respond to needs. They said everyone who was in Moria at that time and eligible for cash assistance will have now been enrolled. All of those who are eligible for cash assistance and who arrived since then should be enrolled within the next six weeks.

“It is very difficult to get food,” said Faruza. “Most of the time [after waiting in line] they say the food is finished. If we don’t get food, we don’t eat…. The appointment for our cash assistance card is in June 2020. In the meantime, I don’t know what to do because we don’t have any money at all.”

Fatima, a mother of four and nine months pregnant, said: “We don’t have money. I don’t know what I will do for the children. They told us that to get the cash [assistance] card it is eight months waiting…. For me, I don’t eat a couple of times and it’s okay, but for the kids it’s really hard.”

Zarifa said she lacked supplies for her 10-day-old baby or resources to purchase them: “They supposedly give you [diapers] but you have to wait all night in line [for morning distribution]. They give 15 Pampers for every kid for a week. It’s nothing. You have to beg other organizations to give you some or you have to buy them yourself.”

Menstrual Hygiene Management

Women said they do not receive sufficient supplies to manage menstrual hygiene and delays in cash assistance leave them unable to purchase sanitary products. The Sphere standards call for provision of “appropriate materials for menstrual hygiene” to women and girls of menstruating age, and means to launder or dispose of them discreetly.

“[Managing] my period is one of the most difficult things – they don’t give us the supplies we need,” said Faruza. “For two of us, they give us four [sanitary pads]. It’s nothing.”

Kamila, 30, from Afghanistan, said an inability to communicate with personnel in the camp compounds the problem. "When I get my period, I bleed so much,” she said. “They just give us pads, but it is so few…. I didn’t tell anyone because I can't speak the language and they don't have a translator.”

Mental Health

Women and girls, some with pre-existing mental health conditions, said they worry about their mental health and the lack of psychosocial support in Moria.

Zarifa said she feels depressed and sought help from a doctor at Moria: “He said you have to go to the city for a private or public psychologist. A private one is 80 or 100 euro a visit. It is impossible. After some time, I gave up.”

Some women said they were unable to get medications for anxiety or depression they had taken regularly before arriving in Greece. “I had depression before,” said Zubaida. “I used [medication] but here when I went to get it, they said no…. Since I came here, I cannot cry, I am not talking with my husband or children. All day I just sit here.”

“My mental health situation is getting worse and worse here,” said Faruza, who said she had been taking medication for two months for depression. “I didn’t go to anyone [here] – there is no place to go, no one to talk to…. The doctor [at Moria] didn’t give me medicine. He said they don’t have any more.”

Faruza’s daughters, alone in Moria with their mother, worry about her mental health. “My mother’s medicine is finishing, and I’m afraid that the only person who makes us feel a bit safe here will no longer feel okay,” said Naima, 12.

Human Rights Obligations and Humanitarian Standards

Greece is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which prohibits governments from subjecting asylum seekers to arbitrary detention and inhuman and degrading treatment. It requires them to provide accommodation and decent material conditions to asylum-seekers. The court has on previous occasions found that Greece has not met its obligations because it did not ensure adequate reception conditions.

The court has ruled that severe overcrowding and inadequate sanitation conditions violated the convention. It found the same on the basis that an asylum seeker was forced to live in conditions of poverty, unable to cater for basic needs and in a constant state of fear of being a victim of violence. The court has also made clear that detained asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable given their experiences when fleeing persecution, which could increase their anguish in detention.

Sphere was created in 1997 by a group of nongovernmental aid organizations and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to improve the quality of humanitarian responses and accountable for their actions. They developed and published the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards, which form the Sphere Handbook, to inform all humanitarian action and support accountability across all sectors. The standards are a set of principles and minimum humanitarian standards in four technical areas of humanitarian response: water supply, sanitation, and hygiene promotion (WASH); food security and nutrition; shelter and settlement; and health.

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action were developed by UN and humanitarian aid agencies to guide prevention of and response to sexual and gender-based violence in all sectors in humanitarian settings. They were updated in 2015.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Migrants on a boat that they tried to take to Italy, after being detained at a Libyan Navy base in Tripoli on September 20, 2015.

© 2015 Reuters

France’s decision last week to withdraw its offer of six boats to the Libyan Coast Guard is good news, as Libya could have used this “gift” to subject even more migrants and refugees to serious abuses in Libya.

In February, the French Defence Minister announced that France would transfer six “semi-rigid” speed boats to the Libyan Coast Guard, which would have been used to intercept people fleeing Libya. The announcement, which came even though the French government was well aware that people intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard face a clear risk of being systematically detained in Libya in atrocious conditions, caused a wave of outrage and criticism. Many nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), including Human Rights Watch, urged French authorities publicly and privately to reverse its decision.

We were pleased to learn in recent meetings that the French Ministry of Defence had finally cancelled the delivery. This decision was officially confirmed in a memorandum sent by the ministry to the Paris Administrative Court of Appeal on November 26, in the context of the legal action brought by Amnesty International, Médecins Sans Frontières, and six other nongovernmental organizations to block the boat transfer.

That the French government heard their criticisms is a win for rights and humanitarian groups. Nevertheless, France should do much more to stop the nightmarish situation for migrants and refugees arbitrarily detained in Libya.

France and its European partners should condition bilateral and European cooperation on migration enforcement with the Libyan authorities on an end to arbitrary detention and abuses against migrants by Libyan authorities. France should intensify its efforts to evacuate the most vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers to safe places, including to European countries. Finally, instead of propping up the Libyan Coast Guard, France should push for the urgent resumption of EU search-and-rescue operations, disembarkation in safe EU ports, and ensure that no one is returned to hellish conditions in Libya.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Ahead of the African Union (AU) High-Level Dialogue on displacement taking place from 4-6 December in Uganda, African and international NGOs call on African leaders and regional organisations to urge the government of Tanzania to stop pressuring 163,000 refugees and asylum seekers into returning to Burundi, where there are ongoing serious human rights violations against real or perceived opposition supporters, including returning refugees.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees fled Burundi after a political crisis erupted in 2015 and led to political violence and serious human rights violations. Tanzania currently hosts the largest group of those refugees and should be commended for having opened its doors to them.

However, senior Tanzanian government officials have repeatedly pressured Burundian refugees to go back to Burundi. One of these calls came from President John Pombe Magufuli, who said on October 11 that Burundian refugees should “go home.” An August 24 agreement between Tanzania and Burundi also says these refugees “are to return to their country of origin whether voluntarily or not” by December 31. To date, around 80,000 have returned with UNHCR’s financial and logistical assistance under a September 2017 “voluntary repatriation” agreement between Burundi, Tanzania and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The Tanzanian government has seriously restricted asylum space, freedom of movement and economic opportunities for Burundian refugees. Those who venture outside of the Nyarugusu, Nduta and Mtendeli camps to meet their daily needs have at times been arrested and detained by Tanzanian security forces. Many returnees in Burundi cite the difficult humanitarian conditions in Tanzania as one of the reasons they left. UN agencies and non-governmental organisations have seen their ability to operate seriously restricted in both countries and face challenges in independently verifying the voluntary nature of the repatriation process.

These moves by Tanzanian authorities follow similar restrictions put in place for around 38,000 Burundians living in Mtabila camp who fled Burundi in the nineties and whose refugee status was revoked in 2012. This was followed by forced returns to Burundi. Some officials have recently threatened to use similar measures against those who currently refuse to return to Burundi.

The 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the 1969 African Refugee Convention prohibit refoulement, the return of refugees in any manner whatsoever to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened. UNHCR has said that refoulement can occur not only when a government directly rejects or expels a refugee, but also when indirect pressure is so intense that it leads people to believe they have no option but to return to a country where they face a serious risk of harm.

Despite positive examples of solidarity in Burundi, returnees have faced exclusion and abuses at the hands of local authorities or members of the Imbonerakure, the ruling party’s youth wing. Research found that returning refugees are likely to be viewed as opposition supporters because they had previously fled. Accountability for abuse is virtually non-existent, and there are few avenues for returnees to express grievances, given overall restrictions on public freedoms, in particular in the run-up to the 2020 elections. The limited humanitarian and development support for returnees creates additional practical obstacles to re-integration. 

So far, there have been no public statements by the African Union, the East African Community, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region or African governments requesting the governments of Tanzania and Burundi to ensure that any returns are genuinely voluntary and conducted in safety and with dignity.

The High-Level Dialogue on the AU’s theme of the year on “Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa” is a good opportunity to break this silence.

Representatives of African regional organisations and governments should seize on the opportunity that the High-Level Dialogue offers to make the AU’s theme of the year a tangible reality for Burundian refugees. They should seek assurances from the Tanzanian government that it will guarantee the voluntary nature of the return process, keep asylum space open and desist from using any coercion against those refugees who want to stay. The AU and sub-regional bodies should call on African and international actors to support refugees who decide to stay in exile, as well as those who want to return and reintegrate in Burundi.

Speaking out on the situation in Tanzania would demonstrate that 50 years after the adoption of the African Refugee Convention, African institutions do not look away when the rights of refugees or returnees are at risk.

Signatories

  1. Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture – Burundi (ACAT-Burundi)
  2. AfricanDefenders (the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
  3. African Youth Action Network
  4. Amnesty International
  5. Association Burundaise pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues (APRODH)
  6. Collectif des Avocats pour la Défense des Victimes de Crimes de Droit International Commis au Burundi (CAVIB)
  7. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) 
  8. East African Centre for Forced Migration
  9. Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile au Burundi (FORSC)
  10. Human Rights Watch
  11. International Refugee Rights Initiative
  12. Ligue Iteka
  13. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Burundi (CBDDH)
  14. Observatoire de la Lutte contre la Corruption et les Malversations Économiques (OLUCOME)
  15. Réseau des Citoyens Probes (RCP)
  16. Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
  17. Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (ROADDH)
  18. SOS-Torture/Burundi
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Summary

“States and relevant stakeholders will contribute resources and expertise to expand and enhance the quality and inclusiveness of national education systems to facilitate access by refugee[s] … and special efforts will be mobilized to minimize the time refugee boys and girls spend out of education, ideally a maximum of three months after arrival.”

Global Compact on Refugees, September 2018

“While it is expected that repatriation [of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar] will take place within two years, the children and adolescents in the camps will lose their golden time for learning which is a global concern. … [Bangladesh] issued guidelines to provide “informal” learning … [that] chooses to be modest in its aspirations.”

Government of Bangladesh, Guidelines on Informal Education Programming (GIEP), May 5, 2019

“If they stay for 20 years, you’ll need a curriculum, but if it’s just a year or two, then it’s different … There is no possibility for them to take the Bangladeshi curriculum.”

Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, in charge of implementing Bangladesh government policy on Rohingya refugees, February 2019

“Education is a basic human right. But today, why [do] we have not this right? Are we not human?”

Sawyeddollah, a Rohingya refugee in the Cox’s Bazar camps, November 2019

Mohamed Tua Sin, 15, was in class 9 in Myanmar when he was forced to flee to Bangladesh in late August 2017. Attacks by the Myanmar military forced 740,000 ethnic Rohingya, like Mohamed Tua Sin, to flee their communities in northern Rakhine State and cross the Naf River into Bangladesh. The campaign of ethnic cleansing included countless apparent crimes against humanity. A United Nations-backed fact-finding mission found that Myanmar’s top generals should be investigated and prosecuted for genocide.

Video

Bangladesh: Rohingya Children Denied Education

Unlawful Restrictions on Schooling Risk Creating a Lost Generation

In response to the flight of Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh opened its borders and has been providing them with refuge from grave abuses since August 2017. It already provides refuge to roughly 300,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled previous waves of persecution in Myanmar. The Bangladesh government has made clear that the Rohingya will not be able to remain in the country. To that end it is deliberately preventing them from integrating into the local Bangladeshi society. In furtherance of this policy the government is violating the right to education of nearly 400,000 school-age Rohingya children.

Mohamed Tua Sin, for instance, studies with a private tutor five days a week simply to keep abreast of a formal education curriculum. “If anyone goes back to Myanmar then if we had certificates we could go to university there. That’s my first choice. If not, then to university in Bangladesh or another foreign country,” he said. Mohamad Sufire, 14, said he was in class 8 when he fled from Myanmar, and now studies with a tutor. Asked by a Human Rights Watch researcher if he could read and write in English, Sufire wrote (in English): “We need education because education can change our life.”

The government, however, requires Rohingya refugees to live in camps, and bars Rohingya children from enrolling in schools in local communities outside the camps or taking national school examinations. Inside the camps, not only does the government not provide any education, it is also barring UN humanitarian agencies and NGOs, funded by international donors, from providing Rohingya children with any formal, accredited education. It prohibits teaching Rohingya children Bangla, Bangladesh’s national language. It bans using the Bangladeshi curriculum on the assumption that the children will be repatriated within two years.  Meanwhile, humanitarian and camp authorities say that Myanmar has not agreed to recognize its school curriculum if used in the camps. In effect, for Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh, who have already lost more than two years of schooling, there is no prospect of formal, recognized, quality education.

This report, based on interviews with 163 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, including over 100 children, as well as government officials, humanitarian education actors, and Bangladeshi teachers and children in host communities, finds the barrier to schooling for Rohingya refugee children is not a lack of resources, but the government’s policy of deliberate deprivation of education in pursuit of its efforts to prevent the refugees from integrating. The Bangladesh government is violating its international obligations by denying refugee children a formal, certified education; secondary-school-level education; access to Bangladeshi schools outside the camps; instruction in the Bengali language; and adequate school buildings.

Myanmar has the responsibility to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of the refugees and should take steps towards ensuring their citizenship rights and holding those responsible for serious violations to account. However, persisting with the ban on formal education is harmful to Bangladesh’s own interests and devastating for a new generation of Rohingya children and the future of the Rohingya community as a whole. In addition to Bangladesh’s obligations to ensure the right to education under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other human rights treaties, the 2018 Global Refugee Compact, which Bangladesh endorsed, calls for the integration of refugee children into national education systems.

Rohingya Access to Education

The Bangladesh government’s insistence that the refugees will return to Myanmar has led it to prohibit humanitarian groups from constructing permanent, brick-and-mortar school buildings in the refugee camps. Barred from opening schools, NGOs have since 2017 constructed about 3,000 “learning centers”: small, temporary bamboo structures that can accommodate up to 40 children at a time. Many learning centers “have rotted already and need to be replaced, since the little worms have been doing their work on the bamboo,” as a humanitarian official noted.

Because the lack of space in the crowded camps limits the number of learning centers that can be built, most learning centers operate three daily “shifts,” of just two hours each, in order to reach a larger number of children. Designs for sturdier, two-story bamboo structures, which could accommodate more students using the same amount of land, had not yet been piloted when the 2019 monsoon season began. As of August 2019, only about 1,600 out of 3,000 learning centers had bathrooms or potable water nearby; none that Human Rights Watch visited had electricity, desks or chairs.

Most children who attend the learning centers are 11 years old or younger, while fewer than 4 percent of children ages 14 and older attend. Some older children prefer unofficial Islamic religious schools in the camps. A girl who attended an Islamic religious school in the camps said it was “serious,” while the “learning centers are for playing, not for education.”

Humanitarian education providers, coordinated by UNICEF, are creating an informal curriculum from scratch, but it is a slow process. These non-governmental humanitarian groups began to roll out the first “level” of the new curriculum, equivalent to a year of pre-primary education, in January 2019. As of August 2019, the government had only approved the first two “levels,” which are intended to take a student from kindergarten up to the equivalent of the second year of primary school.

Previously, the only education available to Rohingya refugees consisted of basic instruction – without lesson plans to guide inexperienced teachers – in English, Burmese, math, and “life skills” that one teacher said involved “mak[ing] students aware of different types of diseases, or letting the kids play with some toys.” The quality of education was poor. “It’s playtime for little kids,” an 11-year-old boy said.

The informal curriculum marks an improvement over the status quo ante. But in addition to the prolonged delay in approving it, Bangladesh has not accredited the informal curriculum, and there is still no pathway for Rohingya children to a certified education.

The education crisis faced by Rohingya refugee children is especially acute because Myanmar had already deprived many of them of access to school. Children dropped out of schools in Rakhine state due to discrimination, harassment, or fear of abuse by security forces, or because the government barred Rohingya from teaching while non-Rohingya teachers refused to teach in their communities. Movement restrictions imposed on Rohingya by the Myanmar authorities were particularly harmful to secondary-school-age children, unless there was a secondary school in their own town or village. The only university that had accepted Rohingya students in Rakhine state stopped doing so in 2012.

Only a handful of Rohingya refugees in the camps have university degrees. As an indication of how damaging this was to the Rohingya community, humanitarian groups that operate learning centers report difficulty hiring Rohingya who had completed their secondary education. A positive aspect of the learning centers is that each employs one Rohingya refugee and one Bangladeshi national as instructors. For Rohingya, the learning centers offer one of the few paid jobs available in the camps.

In surveys and interviews, Rohingya refugees consistently identify the denial of education in the camps as one of their top concerns. “We have a saying: if you want to destroy a community you don’t have to kill the people, just prevent them from studying,” Mohamed A., a Rohingya teacher living in the refugee camps told Human Rights Watch. “[T]here are two or three lakh [200-300,000] students who did not even finish class three, and their future will be destroyed, because there is no proper education in the camp.”

Education could position Rohingya children to become self-sufficient adults who contribute to economic growth, whether in Bangladesh or Myanmar. As the government of Bangladesh affirmed in a 2018 funding proposal, “educating refugees and displaced persons has the multiplier effect of empowering them, reduces their dependence on the host government, and contributing to long term peace and social cohesion.” A World Bank review of 50 years of data found that each additional year of a child’s education leads to a 9 percent increase in earnings as an adult.[1] A dollar invested in an additional year of schooling, particularly for girls, generates earnings and health benefits of US $4 in lower-middle income countries, lowers rates of child marriage, and increases gender equality.[2]

By contrast, Bangladesh as well as the international community will bear the costs of denying education to a new generation of Rohingya children, which could feed the despair for a better future that criminal trafficking networks prey on and lock the Rohingya population into a cycle of poverty, exploitation, and dependency on fickle humanitarian donations. In 2015, tens of thousands of Rohingya risked their lives to escape Myanmar as well as Bangladesh on perilous boat journeys, and some cited the deprivation of education among their reasons for fleeing. For the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children stuck in the refugee camps, the ban on formal education perpetuates the rupture with their past and is a barrier to a better future.

Denial of Education Justified by Threatened Repatriation to Myanmar

Bangladesh’s policy that Rohingya children who arrived after August 2017 may receive only informal education and no instruction in Bangla was set by the government’s National Task Force on Rohingya issues, led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in December 2017.  A May 2019 policy document acknowledges that “the children and adolescents in their camps will lose their golden time for learning” unless provided with education, but recalls the National Task Force’s instructions “to provide ‘informal’ learning … either in Myanmar or English language” and states that Bangladesh’s education policy “chooses to be modest in its aspirations” because of “the practical difficulties of space” in the camps where the government requires Rohingya to live; limited “resources,” although the government does not contribute to the refugees’ education; and “limited learning time,” since “it is expected that the repatriation [to Myanmar] will take place within two years.”

Myanmar officials responsible for the attacks since August 2017 continue to enjoy impunity, the authorities have continued to destroy Rohingya residential communities, and the citizenship law that effectively prevents Rohingya from obtaining Myanmar citizenship remains in force. About 125,000 of the roughly 450,000 to 600,000 Rohingya still in Rakhine State have been forced to live in what are open-air detention camps since 2012.

The Myanmar and Bangladesh governments have attempted to initiate repatriations, first in November 2018, and again in August 2019. However, neither effort resulted in any formal returns, as refugees widely protested both attempts on the basis that they do not wish to return until the Myanmar government offers guarantees of security, freedom of movement, and citizenship.

In addition, the government said it plans to relocate 100,000 Rohingya from Cox’s Bazar to an uninhabited, flood-prone island called Bhasan Char (“Floating Island”) in the Bay of Bengal.[3]

Although Bangladesh claims that Rohingya children do not need formal education because they will soon return to Myanmar, the denial of education to Rohingya children is an entrenched policy that Bangladesh has imposed for decades. This raises grave concerns that it will persist however long the Rohingya refugees remain in Bangladesh.

Rohingya fled to Bangladesh from previous waves of persecution in 1978 and 1991-92. Bangladeshi authorities coerced most of these Rohingya to return to Myanmar – including by restricting their access to food, leading thousands to starve to death – but registered a fraction of those who remained as refugees. Their children, born in Bangladesh, are also “registered” refugees, and live in camps run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).[4] As UNHCR reported in 2007,

Refugee children are prohibited from accessing formal education within or outside the camps. Education is therefore provided informally ... The teachers … have received some basic training ... Classes run for two hours a day … Bengali language instruction is not provided … most schools lacked adequate furniture … books and other learning materials … separate latrines for girls and boys ... [and] facilities for children to wash their hands …. Secondary education is not permitted.

Bangladesh eventually permitted UNHCR to introduce a non-formal, English version of the Bangladeshi school curriculum for registered refugee children, but even today, these Rohingya boys and girls, who were born and lived their entire lives in Bangladesh, are only permitted to study up to class 8, and are barred from attending schools outside the camps. Some Rohingya children managed to enroll in secondary schools by passing as Bangladeshi nationals, but in early 2019, the Bangladesh government ordered their expulsion, after an investigation by one of the country’s intelligence agencies.

For Bangladeshi students, the Cox’s Bazar district has the country’s highest student-teacher ratios and drop-out rates. Some local primary schools in host communities were initially used to store and distribute humanitarian aid after the August 2017 influx; classes closed for months, infrastructure was damaged, and students likely dropped out. Some “para-teachers” who had been working with Bangladeshi schools have taken unrelated jobs with humanitarian NGOs, which offer higher salaries. International donors are funding school refurbishments in host communities and are supporting improving education for Bangladeshi children. 

Current Plans for Rohingya Children Fail to Fulfill Their Right to Education

The Bangladesh government extended its bans on formal education, Bengali language instruction, and secondary education to Rohingya children who fled after August 2017. To make matters worse, in the fall of 2017 Bangladesh’s National Task Force barred the education sector from teaching newly-arrived refugee children with the non-formal version of the curriculum that was allowed in the older, UNHCR-run camps for registered refugees.

As to the Myanmar curriculum, Myanmar authorities have not approved its use for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, which means that these children cannot take national examinations or receive any certification for their schooling.

The humanitarian education sector “couldn’t use the Myanmar or Bangladesh curricula, so the kids were caught in the middle,” a humanitarian agency official said. Instead, UNICEF undertook the time-consuming and costly process of creating a curriculum from scratch for Rohingya refugee children, eventually contracting the British Council to provide the English lessons and BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee), an international humanitarian NGO headquartered in Bangladesh, to provide Burmese language and mathematics lessons. “We had to develop an entire curriculum for every day of every class, then translate it, then print it,” the international NGO official said.

Wary of crossing government red lines, the humanitarian education sector does not describe the informal curriculum as a “curriculum.” It was first designated the Learning Competency Framework and Approach (LCFA); the government later responded to the LCFA with a policy it called Guidelines for Informal Education Programming (GIEP). Humanitarian groups operate in a fog of euphemism: the LCFA/GIEP (hereinafter referred to as an “informal education program”) is taught in “learning centers” rather than schools, by “facilitators,” not teachers. UNICEF submitted the first two levels of the informal program – the first is roughly equivalent to a year of pre-primary and a year of primary education, the second to grades 2 and 3, which include lesson plans for teachers and Burmese language books for students – to the government for approval in March 2018, and the second two levels in July 2018. Humanitarian groups providing education in the camps began cautiously rolling out the first level in January 2019, and the government finally approved the first two levels in May. “The education ministry has been good, the holdup is political,” a senior humanitarian official said.

The informal education program represents a substantial improvement over the status quo ante, in which learning-center instructors lacked lesson plans and students lacked textbooks. Once completed, the informal program will have five levels, intended to be equivalent to nine years of school. The hours of instruction in levels three and four will increase, from 2 hours to around 3.5 hours per day. Some instructors told Human Rights Watch they had received only a few days of training; humanitarian groups in the education sector also intend to improve the quality of education through increased teacher training.

But the informal education program does not meet Bangladesh’s obligations to fulfill the right to education for all children, without discrimination, under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The government has never indicated it will certify Rohingya children’s education, permit them to take national examinations, or transfer to formal education. By contrast, Bangladesh plans to establish “learning centers that would follow the national primary education curriculum” as part of a strategy to help one million out-of-school Bangladeshi children integrate into the formal education system, supported by a no-interest, $700 million loan from the World Bank.

Challenges in Ensuring Education

If and when lesson plans and textbooks become available for the upper levels of the informal education program, it will still not reach the equivalent of a secondary school education, which goes to class 10 in Bangladesh, while higher secondary school goes until class 12. The hours of instruction will increase, but will still be around 50 percent fewer than at single-shift Bangladeshi schools. Lessons in the Bengali language are still banned. Humanitarian actors working to deliver education to refugees also emphasized that the informal education program was not a long-term solution. One described the lesson plans as “scrambled-together,” and noted, “they’re not being ‘piloted,’ they’re supposed to fade away.” Another NGO official said, “it’s not super-basic, but it’s basic. It’s an interim measure.”

An education in the Myanmar curriculum might not best meet the needs of Rohingya children if they are forced to remain in long-term exile in Bangladesh. Several Rohingya children, parents and teachers (as well as Bangladeshi teachers) argued that it was important for Rohingya to be allowed to learn Bangla. Nonetheless, all 99 Rohingya refugee children and all 46 Rohingya refugee teachers whom Human Rights Watch interviewed in Cox’s Bazar in February 2019, who arrived in Bangladesh since August 2017, said they wanted the option of continuing to use the Myanmar curriculum. Students who had gone to school for a year or two in Myanmar described the “learning centers” as an educational step backwards, and more advanced students feared that their years of studying would be lost.  Parents and teachers feared that the Myanmar authorities might twist refugees’ illiteracy in Burmese into “evidence” that Rohingya have no real links to Myanmar. “When the Myanmar government allows us back they will say, ‘Do you know Burmese? No, you’re illiterate? Look at that, you’re Bangladeshi’,” said Mohamed S., a refugee who is using the Myanmar curriculum to teach students out of his own shelter in the Cox’s Bazar camp.

Given popular demand and the lack of any quality alternatives, some former teachers have set up unofficial schools in the Cox’s Bazar camps using the Myanmar curriculum, while others set up “private schools” in their own shelters. They charge a minimal fee to cover the cost of photocopying battered Myanmar textbooks. None of the unofficial teachers we spoke to had been supported or even consulted by the humanitarian groups working in the education sector. The operation of their schools relies on the acquiescence of the “Camp-in-Charge” or CIC, the Bangladeshi officials responsible for a given section of the mega-camp. At least two such unofficial schools were closed in 2018 because they were teaching classes 7 through 9, which the CICs deemed to be too advanced, former teachers at the schools said.

In addition to a lack of secondary-level education under the informal education program, technical and vocational training for refugee adolescents and youth who are out of school is “politically sensitive,” a humanitarian official said. The humanitarian groups working in the education sector aimed to support trainings for refugees in skills needed inside the camps, such as mobile phone repair. “But livelihoods is a ‘no’,” an NGO official said of government attitudes toward support for income-generating activity for refugees, and “lack of livelihoods is directly contributing to child marriage and child labor.” Checkpoints block refugees from moving far outside the camps to look for work.

Girls are especially at risk of being denied education due to a combination of policy barriers and cultural obstacles. Rohingya parents often prohibit their daughters from attending school once the girls begin menstruating, according to Rohingya camp residents, teachers, and staff at NGOs. Some NGOs and UN Women are seeking to mitigate restrictions on access to healthcare for women and girls by opening all-women “safe spaces” or “girl-friendly spaces” in the camps, which could potentially also be used for education.

However, since January 2019, men who claimed or were believed by camp residents to be members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a small Rohingya armed group, threatened refugee women or beat the male relatives of women who work for NGOs. Reuters reported in April 2019 that 150 women who were teaching in learning centers run by one NGO in the camps had quit due to threats and beatings. Adding to parents’ reluctance to allow girls to attend learning centers, girls and women have been victims of sexual assault and rape in the camps, due to a lack of security. The camps house roughly 900,000 Rohingya but are patrolled by only 992 Bangladesh police officers during the day, who leave at night.

What Needs to Be Done

The obligation to fulfill Rohingya children’s right to education without discrimination applies regardless of whether Bangladesh acknowledges the reality that Rohingya who arrived since August 2017 may have to remain for a prolonged period. Bangladesh should allow humanitarian agencies to implement an appropriate education response and ensure that Rohingya children can access an accredited, certified education. It should lift its prohibitions on instruction in the Bangla language, on the use of the Bangladeshi school curriculum in the camps, and on Rohingya children from enrolling in Bangladeshi schools and completing secondary school. The government should not close down unofficial Rohingya schools teaching the Myanmar curriculum in the camps, particularly when students have no accessible, appropriate, equivalent alternative. It should also ensure that international NGOs with expertise in education in refugee contexts are able to obtain the required permits and work visas; some staff described prolonged delays without explanation, and obscure and changing bureaucratic criteria.

There has been no accountability to the Rohingya for the denial of their right to education. Few if any officials from donor countries or the UN have publicly stated that Bangladesh’s restrictions are thwarting Rohingya refugee children’s right to formal, quality education without discrimination. The 2018 UN-coordinated humanitarian response plan merely noted that “continuous engagement with the government of Bangladesh is critical” to “achieve greater policy clarity” in line with the human rights obligation to ensure children’s education “regardless of their immigration status”. The 2019 response plan mid-year update identified the “lack of [an] authorized learning framework” as an obstacle to “meaningful education with a clear pathway to accreditation,” but without reference to Bangladesh’s human rights obligations.

The humanitarian education response is crucial for Rohingya children, but donors have at times incorrectly represented the children’s right to education as subject to deferral. A 2018 grant approval by the Global Partnership for Education, for instance, remarked on the “need to ensure that interventions fulfil the longer-term education rights of refugee children and youth,” which would “require[e] more time and negotiation amid continuously evolving circumstances”. International law allows for states that lack the resources needed to fulfill all children’s right to education to realize that right progressively, but Bangladesh is blocking foreign and multilateral donors and humanitarian partners from providing funding and implementing education programs. The deferral of core aspects of the right to education, like accreditation, also violates humanitarian standards on education in emergencies. The UN refugee agency’s “education in emergency standard,” for instance, provides that “refugee children and youth are able to participate in accredited national education systems and programmes under similar conditions to local children,” and states: “the same standards apply to long term and emergency situations.”

Given that Dhaka’s entrenched policies have deprived generations of Rohingya children of access to education, the UN, donor countries, and multilateral donors should jointly and consistently press Bangladesh for reforms. Such an effort should be paired with increased and consistent international pressure on Myanmar to end its persecution of the Rohingya and to hold to account the officials responsible for atrocity crimes.

The UN-coordinated annual Joint Response Plans should include clear benchmarks to fulfill Rohingya children’s right to education without discrimination, and donors should provide the required funding and political support. Donors and humanitarian groups working in the education sector should set timelines for Rohingya children’s access to formal, certified education, including the ability to sit for national examinations. The informal education program could be reconceived as a pathway to give out-of-school children the skills they need to successfully transfer into formal education, but should be certified. The humanitarian groups working in the education sector should consult with Rohingya educators, community-based organizations, and community leaders, particularly regarding the use of the Myanmar curriculum.

Donors should provide transparent, predictable, multi-year support to ensure access to education for Rohingya and host community children. Donors have pledged substantial aid to support Rohingya refugees and local communities, but as of October 2019, 60 percent of funding requirements for education in 2019 were still unmet, out of an education budget of $59.5 million under the Joint Response Plan. Humanitarian officials are worried that education funding may drop off in 2020, while there is no prospect of safe returns of Rohingya to Myanmar.

 

Recommendations

To the Government of Bangladesh:

  • Lift educational restrictions that violate Rohingya refugee children’s right to education without discrimination and allow them to access formal education, instruction in the Bangla language, secondary education, and the Bangladeshi curriculum.
  • Working with the organisations in the humanitarian education sector, accredit the education that they are providing to Rohingya children in the camps and ensure it is a pathway to formal education.
  • Lift restrictions to allow humanitarian actors to construct adequate, sturdy school buildings in the refugee camps, that are accessible to both Rohingya refugee children and Bangladeshi children from local host communities who lack access to education due to a lack of public schools.
  • Instruct Camp-in-Charge officials not to close down schools operated by Rohingya refugees in the camps that teach the Myanmar curriculum.
  • Lift restrictions and allow Rohingya students to enroll in Bangladeshi schools outside the camps, cease expulsions of Rohingya students enrolled in these schools, and allow students who were expelled to re-enroll.
  • Improve policing so as to ensure Rohingya refugees’ security in the refugee camps, with a particular focus on preventing sexual and gender-based violence against Rohingya girls and women at night.
  • Register the births of all children born in Cox’s Bazar.
  • Accede to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, and draft and adopt national legislation on statelessness.
  • Ensure that non-governmental organizations with expertise in education in refugee contexts are not subject to arbitrary decisions or prolonged delays with regard to obtaining the necessary permits.

To UNICEF and the humanitarian education sector in Cox’s Bazar:

  • Publicly advocate for Bangladesh to lift restrictions on formal, accredited education for Rohingya refugee children, from pre-primary through secondary school levels, including examinations and certifications, in line with the right to education without discrimination.
  • Review and revise education planning for Rohingya refugees to be in line with their right to education, including specific benchmarks and timelines for access to formal, accredited quality education.
  • Improve consultation with Rohingya refugees and dissemination of information to them on education planning and developments, including by supporting the formation of a body of Rohingya refugees recognized in their community educators.
  • Support Rohingya refugees who are teaching the Myanmar curriculum at unofficial schools established in camps, and assess and respond to the Rohingyas’ widespread desire for education in the Myanmar curriculum.
  • Coordinate with the humanitarian Inter-Sector Coordination Group to ensure that children do not need to leave classes to receive humanitarian aid distributions.
  • Coordinate with the humanitarian nutrition cluster to ensure that school feeding programs are rolled out equally to all learning centers.

To International Donors to the Rohingya Refugee Response in Bangladesh:

  • Publicly call on Bangladesh to allow all Rohingya children access to formal, accredited education from pre-primary through secondary school, including examinations and certifications, in line with their right to education without discrimination.
  • Support the humanitarian groups working in the education sector to revise education planning for Rohingya refugee children in line with their right to education, including specific benchmarks and timelines.
  • In line with the Global Compact on Refugees, ensure that future funding to education in Bangladesh promotes the integration of refugee children in national education systems, without prejudice to the education sector’s assistance to schools for refugee children that teach the Myanmar curriculum.
  • Working with the government of Bangladesh and the humanitarian groups working in the education sector, ensure schools in the Cox’s Bazar district Fulfill funding pledges and ensure that the Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis is adequately funded.
  • Ensure that funding for Rohingya refugee children and children in host communities is predictable, multi-annual, and transparent.
  • Working with the humanitarian groups involved in the education sector, ensure that funding appeals take into account the specific needs of Rohingya girls, including secondary-school-age girls, and children with disabilities, so that they can access education without discrimination.

Methodology

This report is based on interviews with Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh government officials, humanitarian education actors, and on analysis of policy and planning documents related to the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

In February 2019, Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed 99 Rohingya children, including 18 girls, ages 7 to 17, who had arrived in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, since fleeing Myanmar after August 2017, as well as 46 Rohingya refugees working as teachers in the camps. Most of the interviews were conducted with groups of children aged from 12 to 16, during which each child was asked brief questions about her or his educational background in Myanmar and current access to education in Bangladesh. In addition, in response to questions directed to the groups at large, some children in each group volunteered to provide more detailed information on these issues. Twenty-one children were interviewed in smaller groups of 4 or 5, and 10 children were interviewed individually.

Also during February 2019, we conducted individual interviews with 13 Rohingya children, including 4 girls, who were born in Bangladesh to parents who fled there from Myanmar, and had been registered as refugees before mid-1992. We spoke to these children about their experiences attending government schools outside their refugee camps by passing as Bangladeshi nationals, before an investigation identified them and they were expelled. This research also involved interviews with five “registered” Rohingya refugees, including two community leaders.

In all cases, children were informed of who was conducting the interviews, why, and how the interviews would be used, that they could choose whether or not to participate, could stop or leave the interview at any time, and would not be remunerated or lead to additional humanitarian assistance including education. 

The interviews may not be statistically representative of the overall educational situation of Rohingya refugee children in the camps. A higher proportion of the children interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they had gone to school in Myanmar than was found by larger surveys conducted in the camps by the UN-led education sector. This report also draws on data from surveys of Rohingya refugees conducted in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The interviews were conducted with the help of interpreters. Some interviews were translated by a Rohingya refugee who speaks English, while others were translated by a Bangladeshi national who has worked as a translator for English-speakers and Rohingya refugees since September 2017. Some Rohingya children spoke or wrote in English.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 46 Rohingya refugees in the camps who are working as teachers. Of these, 33 were working at learning centers, and 6 as “home-based” teachers, all of whom were using the English, Math, Burmese and Life Skills format approved by the education sector. In addition, seven teachers worked as private tutors (some of whom also worked at learning centers), and five worked as teachers at unofficial schools set up in the camps. Nineteen of the teachers were interviewed privately or in group settings, while 25 were interviewed during Human Rights Watch visits to learning centers in the camps. Each learning center we visited had one Rohingya and one Bangladeshi national working as instructors. In each case, we spoke to both instructors, including the 25 Bangladeshi nationals.

Human Rights Watch visited two primary schools and a secondary school in Bangladeshi communities in Cox’s Bazar, conducted brief group interviews with 45 students, and interviewed teachers, vice-principals, and other staff. In addition, we interviewed the senior Bangladeshi official responsible for secondary education in the district. The report draws on Bangladesh government data about the school system in the district.

In Cox’s Bazar, we held meetings with 6 local and 5 international NGOs providing or reporting on education or child protection, as well as UNICEF and UNHCR staff, and interviewed the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, the government official in charge of implementing Bangladesh’s policies and overseeing the camps. Outside Cox’s Bazar, we met with representatives of 4 donor government and multilateral funding agencies, human rights groups with Rohingya diaspora civil society groups, UN agency staff, and former members of the Cox’s Bazar education sector.

Human Rights Watch wrote to request the Bangladeshi authorities to respond to questions based on our preliminary research findings in October 2019, but did not receive responses.

I. Background

The Rohingya, most of whom are Sunni Muslims, had a presence in what is now Myanmar since the  12th century, but the current government claims they migrated there illegally during the period of British colonial control from 1824 to the 1940s.[5] After Myanmar’s independence in 1948, the Rohingya’s ancestral homeland of Arakan became Arakan State, in western Myanmar, and was renamed Rakhine State in 1990.[6] The democratic Burmese government recognized the Rohingya as a national ethnic minority until a military coup in 1962. Under the 1982 Nationality Act, Burma’s military rulers effectively revoked the nationality of the Rohingya, rendering them one of the largest stateless groups in the world.

Members of the Rohingya ethnic group have suffered discrimination and persecution from Myanmar authorities for generations, including in accessing education.[7]

Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh before August 2017

Rohingya have been present since at least the 18th century in Cox’s Bazar, the southeastern district of Bangladesh where the refugee camps are currently located. The district was named for the colonial military official sent by the British East India Company to deal with the refugees who fled there after a Burman king conquered Arakan in 1784.[8] More Arakanese refugees fled to the area in the early 19th century, and again following inter-communal violence between Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists in the 1940s.[9]

More than 200,000 Rohingya sought refuge in Bangladesh in 1977-78, and 280,000 fled from forced labor, rape, and religious persecution by the Myanmar military in 1991-92.[10] On both occasions, Bangladesh carried out large-scale forced returns. In the 1970s, some 9,000 people starved to death when Bangladesh cut their food rations to pressure them to leave.[11] Only a small fraction of Rohingya refugees from 1991-92 were granted refugee status before Bangladesh suspended refugee registration in mid-1992; approximately 236,000 had been repatriated by 2005.[12] When Rohingya again fled violence in Rakhine State in June 2012, Bangladesh closed its borders and sent 4,000 people back to Myanmar by October 2012.[13] Another wave of 80,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh following attacks in October 2016.

By 2017, there were up to 300,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, of whom around 33,000 were officially recognized as refugees before mid-1992, including their children.[14] Since late August 2017, an additional 740,000 refugees have arrived, fleeing attacks by the Myanmar military in Rakhine State.[15] Bangladesh considers the latest arrivals as “Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals” but has not granted them refugee status.[16]

Since the 1978 refugee influx, if not before, Bangladesh has denied Rohingya refugees permission to work, freedom of movement, or access to education.[17] Bangladesh has justified its denial of international protection to Rohingya refugees due to the “social and economic challenges it faces in caring for its own citizens,” UNHCR noted in 2007.[18] Poverty and out-of-school rates in the Cox’s Bazar district, where Bangladesh has limited the movement of Rohingya refugees, are among the highest in the country, and the increased population of refugees led to downward pressure on day-labor wages and to an increase in food and rent prices, leading to concerns that improvements in conditions for the refugees could spark resentment by citizens.[19] Humanitarian donors and agencies are working on the basis of a Joint Response Plan that aims to support the basic needs, such as protection, food security, education, and health of Rohingya refugees as well as vulnerable Bangladeshi nationals.[20]

Conditions for the Rohingya in Bangladesh and Myanmar were so poor that many attempted to escape by boat.[21] Numbers spiked in 2015, when 25,000 people left by boat, risking exploitation and abuse by traffickers, and drowning.[22] Some of those who fled Myanmar said the deprivation of education was among their reasons for fleeing.[23] Rohingya have continued to try to escape by boat in lower numbers since.

Barriers to Education for Rohingya Children in Myanmar

The denial of education to Rohingya in Myanmar, where the government has created barriers including movement restrictions, lack of schools, long-term segregation, and denial of citizenship and related rights and protections, heightens the urgency of fulfilling the right to formal education for refugee children in Bangladesh.[24]

Rohingya children in Rakhine State suffer what the Norwegian Refugee Council terms “full deprivation” of education.[25] Student-to-teacher ratios in schools in one majority-Rohingya township are 123:1.[26] Basic measurements of access to education are far worse for Rohingya than the national average.[27] One survey found that only 54 percent of Rohingya children had completed one year of school in Myanmar, in contrast to 92 percent of children from another ethnic group, the Rakhine, who are Buddhist and officially recognized as a national ethnic group.[28] Only 12 percent of Rohingya boys, and just 6 percent of girls completed grade 5, compared to more than 50 percent of Rakhine children.[29]

Rohingya children face the obstacle that instruction is in Burmese, a second or third language.[30] As few as 27 percent of Rohingya are literate in Burmese.[31]

Rohingya children also faced discrimination at government schools in Rakhine State: teachers at these schools humiliated Rohingya children by forcing them to sit at the back of the classroom or a separate room, away from students of other ethnicities, and told them they “do not have any country.”[32] Rohingya girls face additional obstacles to education as they grow older, due to parents’ fears for their safety en route to schools.[33] There is a lack of data about access to education for Rohingya children with disabilities in Myanmar, but the vast majority are thought not to attend schools.[34]

Following sectarian violence directed against Rohingya in Rakhine State in June and October 2012, Myanmar authorities have prohibited Rohingya students in some townships from attending schools that have ethnic Rakhine students, claiming that this is necessary to prevent a renewal of violence but without providing alternative access to schools.[35]

Myanmar has forced Rohingya to live in open-air detention camps since the 2012 violence, where approximately 125,000 of the 450,000 to 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Rakhine are confined, more than half of them children.[36] An education needs assessment in the camps in 2015 found that children’s access to formal education was “minimal or non-existent.”[37] The UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar reported in 2018 that the only schools in the camps are “temporary learning centers” supported by humanitarian agencies, not the government, that only provide primary-level education.[38] Rohingya children detained in the IDP camps have no access to secondary education.[39]

The government expanded longstanding restrictions on Rohingyas’ freedom of movement following the 2012 violence.[40] For Rohingya children not detained in the camps, these restrictions effectively bar attendance at middle and high schools, which are fewer and farther away than the primary schools in villages.[41] Royes, a former teacher in northern Rakhine State, said that “Rohingya children from settlements [in Myanmar] without any schools were unable join because of the travel restrictions.”[42]

Rohingya in Myanmar have been barred from holding teaching positions because they are denied citizenship, contributing to a lack of Rohingya teachers. Nur Bashar, 42, received a BA in Geography from Sittwe University in 2003, but had to work as an agricultural laborer in a village because his lack of a “national ID” prevented him from being hired as a teacher.[43] Most teachers at government schools in Rakhine State are ethnically Rakhine or Bamar, not Rohingya, and some have refused to work in majority-Rohingya areas due to safety concerns.[44] One Rohingya refugee said that during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years he volunteered at a primary school in his village because “all the teachers at the school were Buddhist and they wouldn’t come to teach.”[45]

Some children and teachers told Human Rights Watch that the Myanmar military had interfered in their schools in Rakhine State. Mohamad M., 45, a former teacher in Myanmar, said that “the problems started three years ago” when Myanmar security forces first came to his school.

Sometimes they captured students and forced students and teachers to carry water and wood for them. So everyone was afraid to go. They didn’t torture teachers, but they did torture some students. Six months before [August 2017], I had to stop going to teach at all [due to the danger].[46]

Mohamed A., 17, said he was a student in class 8 in Myanmar when he dropped out of school, three months before he fled to Bangladesh due to attacks in August 2017.

The army was in the school and the classroom. Sometimes the soldiers were drinking [alcohol] in the classroom and threatening students. When we saw the military in the yard we were afraid. Sometimes they slept in the school to monitor the movement of people.”[47]

Myanmar authorities closed schools in northern Rakhine State following the August 25, 2017 attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) armed group. Some schools were reopened in mid-October, but over 106,000 students did not return to their studies, and as of January 10, 2018, 424 out of 650 schools in three predominantly-Rohingya townships remained closed, according to a post on the Myanmar President Office's website.[48] Freedom of movement for the Rohingya remaining in northern Rakhine State has been even more severely restricted since August 2017, with many effectively confined to their homes and villages, without access to health care, education, or other basic services.

In addition to formal schooling, thousands of students in Rakhine State attended madrasas, Islamic schools that teach the Quran and in some cases provide basic primary education.[49] These too came under threat from the government. Officials said in September 2016 that more than 35 madrasas and 12 mosques in Rakhine State were “illegally built” and would be demolished.[50] Some Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh said they had been banned from attending Islamic schools in Myanmar.[51]

Tertiary education is inaccessible for Rohingya in Rakhine State. Sittwe University had been the only university in Rakhine State that had accepted Rohingya students before they were barred from attending for undefined “security” reasons in 2012.[52] Mohamad Sufire, 14, who was in class 8 when he fled from Myanmar, recalled, “even if we stud[ied] hard we were not allowed to go to university.”[53] Even before 2012, Rohingya, denied nationality, were only allowed to enroll in B.A. and B.Sc. degrees at Sittwe University, and not engineering, law, and medicine, or other majors that are open only to Myanmar nationals.[54] Furthermore, Sittwe University did not offer degrees in education; Yangon University did, but out of all the inhabitants of the Cox’s Bazar camps, only seven Rohingya refugees had received B.Ed. degrees before access to Yangon University was barred by travel restrictions.[55]  Rohingya were also required to obtain permission to travel to Sittwe, limiting the number who had attended university there even before the 2012 ban.[56]

Lack of Education for Bangladeshi Children in Cox’s Bazar

Bangladeshi children in the Cox’s Bazar district suffer from a lack of teachers, classrooms, and high dropout rates. The Bangladesh government requires that at least 25 percent of humanitarian aid must be spent to address the needs of local host communities, and the education sector’s 2019 plans target 343,000 refugees and 120,000 host community students.[57] UNICEF found that by late 2019, enrollment rates for children ages 4-11 at learning centers in the camps for Rohingya ranged from 79 to 89 percent, exceeding the 75 percent enrollment rates for Bangladeshi children of that age range in host communities in Cox’s Bazar, “which is why we have been extending our assistance to the host community.”[58]  There is no crossover between education aid to host communities and aid for education programs for Rohingya children, because the government bans Rohingya children from going to local schools.

The net primary education enrollment rate for Bangladeshi children in the Cox’s Bazar district “is the lowest in the country,” and those who do enroll dropout at a rate that “is the highest in the country,” according to the World Bank. The Bank reported dropout rates of 39.6 percent for boys and 22.8 percent for girls, compared to the national average of 22.3 and 16.1 percent respectively.[59] Other sources report even worse outcomes. As of 2018, according to a UN report, the dropout rate in the district was 45 percent for boys and 30 percent for girls.[60]

The problems are even more acute in the Ukhiya and Teknaf subdistricts of Cox’s Bazar where the camps for Rohingya refugees are located. Bangladesh’s National Education Policy set out the goal of achieving student-teacher ratios of 30:1 in primary and secondary schools by 2018.[61] Yet census data from 2015 shows that in Ukhiya, 85.5 percent of primary schools had 46 or more students per teacher – as opposed to 71.2 percent in Cox’s Bazar as a whole, and 33.4 percent nationally. Only 2.9 percent of schools in Ukhiya were operating on a single shift – as opposed to 21.6 percent nationally; the rest operated on multiple “shifts” each day, in order to accommodate more children using the insufficiently available schools, classrooms and teachers.[62]

In February 2019, Human Rights Watch visited one primary and two secondary schools in Ukhiya sub-district, which like all Bangladeshi public and private schools in the district, are not open to Rohingya children. The schools had an average of 120 students per classroom, administrators said.[63]

“There are not enough schools for local kids, and sometimes they can’t pay their teachers on time—they come to us to ask for [financial] support,” said the director of a local NGO that has supported Bangladeshi and Rohingya children in Cox’s Bazar since 2008. The NGO worked with schools as well as students who dropped out, he said, like a Bangladeshi boy who left school in order to earn an income for the family after his father became too ill to work.[64] A survey of 1,700 Bangladeshis in local host communities in July 2018 found that 85 percent did not want Rohingya children to attend public schools in the area, in part because providing Rohingya with education would make it less likely they would return to Myanmar, but also because local schools were already under-resourced and the quality of education would deteriorate if they had to accommodate more students.[65]

Some local primary schools were initially used in the refugee response after August 2017 to store and distribute humanitarian aid. This led to a partial or total shutdown of some primary schools for up to four months after August 2017, and the humanitarian relief work caused damage that was slow to be repaired.[66] As a result, it is likely that Bangladeshi children dropped out of school. The pressing need for family income due to poverty in the relevant sub-districts of Cox’s Bazar contribute to child labor and mean that “once a [Bangladeshi] child has dropped out from the education system, it is extremely difficult to trace him/her and bring him/her back,” the World Bank noted.[67]

Although people in Cox’s Bazar were initially generally welcoming of the refugees, the temporary shutdowns caused resentment, which was later exacerbated by several other factors, including rising rents, and the loss of teaching staff and students to jobs with humanitarian NGOs in the refugee camps. One teacher at a secondary school said her rent had doubled from one year to the next due to the influx of NGOs to the area, forcing her to move out.[68] An administrator at the same school noted that “up to 20 percent of students in classes eight and above” had dropped out to work for NGOs, “which means the secondary school certificate [national examination] pass rates have fallen from 85 percent to around 65 percent since the influx.”[69] At another school, an administrator said that “five guest teachers” -- also referred to as “para-teachers,” who do not receive state benefits -- had not renewed their short-term contracts because NGOs offered better salaries, worsening the teacher shortage.

II. Barriers to Rohingya Children’s Right to Education

The precise number of school-age Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh is unclear, partly because UNHCR’s total figure of 912,000 Rohingya refugees does not include an estimated 300,000 people who fled persecution and military attacks before August 2017 but who have not been registered.[70] Based on the Bangladesh government’s claim that the Rohingya population comprises 1.1 million people, and on available demographic data, there are roughly 390,000 Rohingya children in Bangladesh between the ages of 5 and 17.[71] As of July 28, 2019, the education sector reported that education programs had reached 296,000 out of a target of 393,000 Rohingya children ages 3-18, most of them under age 14.[72] These figures may not reflect children who are registered at the NGO-operated “learning centers” in the camps, but who do not actually attend.[73]

But even those children who do regularly attend learning centers are not receiving education that fulfils their rights, because of restrictions imposed by the government of Bangladesh. The government has claimed that its response to the Rohingya crisis “aims to fulfil its commitments in global treaties and declarations that guarantee the right to education.”[74] In fact, the government contributes no funding, infrastructure, or other resources to Rohingya children’s education. Instead, it imposes a highly restrictive policy that limits what humanitarian agencies, with international funding, can do. As this chapter describes, government documents, UN reports, statements by officials, UN reports, notes of coordination meetings of humanitarian groups working in the education sector, and interviews with humanitarian and Bangladesh officials show that the government of Bangladesh, in line with decades-old policies on refugee education, prohibits humanitarians from providing Rohingya children with:

  • formal, certified education
  • secondary-school-level education
  • access to Bangladeshi schools outside the camps
  • instruction in the Bengali language
  • permanent school buildings.

Ban on Formal, Certified Education

The government of Bangladesh’s responsibility for providing education to Rohingya refugees lies with the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, the Ministry of Education (which is responsible for secondary, tertiary and vocational education), the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, and the Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC), among other bodies. A coordinating group in Dhaka is meant to bring UN agencies and NGOs together with government bodies on education issues, but the government rarely participates.[75] In fact, refugee education policy is determined by the National Task Force on Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals, chaired by the Foreign Secretary, and comprised of 29 agencies and ministries.[76]

After the influx of refugees in August 2017, the government of Bangladesh “hesitated to include education support in its humanitarian operations to Rohingya children and youth in camps, for fear that such support could stimulate [a] further influx of people,” according to a multilateral funder’s assessment.[77] There is no available evidence for such an assumption, such as cases of Rohingya who were drawn to Bangladesh primarily for its education system rather than being forced to flee there due to military attacks, torture, rape and murder. In October 2017, the National Task Force set down its policy that newly-arrived Rohingya children may receive only “informal” education and no instruction in Bengali.[78]

The policy to allow “informal” education for Rohingya children means that learning centers in the camps may not teach a formal curriculum and are not certified. The policy also means that Rohingya children “are not entitled to enroll in government-accredited schools [outside the refugee camps], nor can they sit for the Primary School Certificate exam.”[79]  An assessment commissioned by UNHCR of its response to the Rohingya humanitarian crisis noted that “the Government’s refusal to allow the Bangladesh curriculum or a formal … education to be taught has led to a situation where there is effectively no formal education for the hundreds of thousands of school age children.”[80]

The government’s current refugee education policy, as stated in the Guideline on Informal Education Program (GIEP) from May 5, 2019, insists that Rohingya will soon return to Myanmar:

While it is expected that the repatriation [to Myanmar] will take place within two years, the children and adolescents in the camps will lose their golden time for learning which is a global concern. Nevertheless, given the situation in the camps and uncertainty regarding repatriation timing etc., [the] National Task Force … issued guidelines to provide “informal” learning opportunity … and the learning should be either in Myanmar or English language. … Keeping in mind the practical difficulties of space, resources and limited learning time the GIEP chooses to be modest in its aspirations.[81]

“The [government] perspective is that because [the Rohingya] are here on a temporary basis, they should only be given an informal framework, no formal education – we can’t go too far,” one senior humanitarian official said.[82] “It depends how you look at the problem,” said the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, in charge of implementing government policy in Cox’s Bazar camps.[83] “If they [the Rohingya] stay for 20 years, you’ll need a curriculum, but if it’s just a year or two, then it’s different. … There is no possibility for them to take the Bangladeshi curriculum.”

It has already been two years since the latest exodus of the Rohingya to Bangladesh from Myanmar, and there are few prospects of repatriation.[84] The Inter-Agency Network on Education in Emergencies, which has set out minimum standard for humanitarian education based on the right to education, provides that “recognized national primary and secondary curricula should be used,” but that “in settings where none exist, curricula will need to be quickly developed or adapted,” warning that curriculum development and review is a “long, complex process.”[85]

Bangladesh has refused to allow Rohingya refugees formal education for decades. Currently, there are roughly 8,000 school-age Rohingya refugees, who were born in Bangladesh to parents who arrived before mid-1992, who are registered as refugees, and live in camps separate from the post-August 2017 arrivals.[86] The government did not allow these “registered” Rohingya children to study a curriculum until 2007, when it permitted instructors, supported by UNHCR, to teach a non-formal version of the Bangladeshi curriculum, translated into English.[87] These Rohingya children receive a “certificate of participation or attendance” but their education is not certified or accredited and they cannot sit for national examinations.[88] The schools for children in “registered” refugee camps only run through class 8, while secondary school for Bangladeshi children goes to class 10 and higher secondary school to class 12, but “there are no formal pathways from this into the formal system.”[89]

Because no certified education is available to Rohingya children, and no secondary-level education is provided in the camps, some have learned Bengali, acquired Bangladeshi identification documents, and enrolled in public schools outside the camps by passing as Bangladeshi nationals. In early 2019, the Bangladesh government ordered the expulsion of Rohingya refugee children who had managed to acquire Bangladeshi identification documents in order to enroll in public and private schools in the Teknaf and Ukhiya subdistricts of Cox’s Bazar by passing as Bangladeshi nationals.[90] The children were identified by an investigation by intelligence agencies, expelled from schools, and had no alternative access to education.[91]

A senior Bangladeshi education official in Cox’s Bazar, who expressed sympathy for the plight of Rohingya children, made an attempt to justify Bangladesh’s ban on formal education:

Education is a human right. So they [Rohingya children] should have learning. But in the camps, our prime minister gave them shelter for humanitarian reasons. It is not possible to provide them with an educational institution inside the camps. But they should have a chance. We should do our level best to provide them opportunities. If the international community takes the initiative to repatriate them to their own land, good. Otherwise we will have a lot of problems. Even if they stay here for 20, 30 or 40 years, or more, they will not be Bangladeshi. They see themselves as refugees.[92]

Initial Humanitarian Education Response

The humanitarian groups working in the education sector, led by UNICEF, responded to the government’s restrictions by establishing “learning centers” rather than schools, staffed with “volunteer facilitators” rather than teachers – “we have to be very careful with wording,” a humanitarian official said.[93] Children ages 4 to 14 can enroll at the learning centers, each of which can teach one class of 30 to 40 children at a time. Each learning center is staffed by one Rohingya refugee, who teaches Burmese language and life skills, and one Bangladeshi national, who taught mathematics and English.

Royes, a 30-year-old former teacher from Rakhine State who works as a learning center instructor, described a typical work-day: to increase the number of students who attend their center, he and his Bangladeshi co-instructor teach three shifts per day, from 9 to 11 a.m., 11:30 to 1:30 p.m., and 2:10 to 4:10 p.m., six days a week. Each shift includes four, 25-minute lessons, with a break after each. Some 40 children are enrolled in each shift, but actual attendance varied.[94]

Lack of a Formal Curriculum for All Grades

When asked about what was missing from the education offered at learning centers, children and Rohingya instructors most often pointed to the lack of a curriculum—lessons that build on previous skills and knowledge and add new subject areas as the student progresses. Until early 2019, the learning centers only taught basic-level mathematics, Burmese language, and life skills. There were no textbooks, lesson plans, or any structured education at any of the learning centers for around 15 months after most children had arrived in Bangladesh, and minimal training for instructors.

Lacking any curriculum, the learning centers offered poor-quality education, according to children, parents and teachers we interviewed in February 2019. Nur Faisel, 11, complained that at learning centers, “they’re only playing, not teaching!”[95] A teacher at a learning center said that one of his subjects, “life skills,” consisted of “mak[ing] students aware of different types of diseases, or letting the kids play with some toys.”[96] “The learning center is only for playing, not for education,” said Nur Kamal, 11.[97] Many of the children whom Human Rights Watch interviewed who attended learning centers said they also attended privately-funded moktabs in the camps – Islamic religious schools that teach Quranic memorization for 2 to 3 hours per day to 60 to 200 students – but some attended only moktabs.[98] Mohamed Yasin, 11, said that unlike in learning centers, “in the moktab, there is no playing allowed.”[99] The head of a Rohingya refugee human rights group, Mohib Ullah, told Agence France Presse that the education offered in moktabs could help boys to become religious teachers and imams, but could not “prepare [children] to face the challenges of globalization.”[100]

A survey of parents’ attitudes to the education provided by NGOs in the camps, published in June 2018, reflected frustration at the “lack of learning materials” and of “age-appropriate / useful instruction” at learning centers.[101] Osman O., a Rohingya teacher at a learning center in camp 7, remarked in February 2019, “These learning centers are providing 10 percent education and 90 percent life skills training, like how to wash your hands. This is not schooling.”[102] Azida, a 12-year-old girl who had attended class 5 at a government school before fleeing Myanmar to the refugee camps, voiced a common complaint: “my learning center only teaches A-B-C-D, but I wish I could move on, and pass class 10.”[103]

Children who attended school in Myanmar described their frustration at not being able to build on what they had learned, but having to start over in schools that offered only basic instruction, and where there was no progression of knowledge and skills. Esha Ahmed, a 13-year-old who had attended class 4 at a public school in Myanmar, said “There is no point going to the learning center here because we were already more advanced [in our study in Myanmar].”[104] Faisal, a 20-year-old instructor at a learning center, said that children ages 4 to 8 “are eager to come to the learning centers because they find a playground,” but that older children who had gone to school in Rakhine state “could not fulfil their thirst for education” and “stop coming to the learning center after a few days.”[105] Mohamad Amin, 20, who began working as a Burmese and math instructor at a learning center in 2018, said his students initially included “lots of kids who used to attend Burmese schools [before fleeing], but after attending a few classes some of them did not come anymore.”[106]

Children with school experience in Myanmar were also discouraged by learning centers’ failure to group children according to their previous academic experience. Mohamad Zohar, 14, had been in class 6 in Rakhine state, and had also been out of school since coming to Bangladesh. “There are very little kids, they are just playing in the learning centers.” He wants to be a math teacher, but currently, “I don’t do anything.”[107] Rumana, a Bangladeshi national teaching in a learning center in the camps, said:

They need to go somewhere for learning, but these age groups cannot be incorporated with the [younger] children. So, suppose I am teaching numbers in the math class, students who are already familiar with course work lose their concentration. But if I start teaching them mathematical operations, the other children, who don’t even know about numbers, start making noise. What is needed is to divide the children into different classes, based on their education levels.[108]

The Bangladeshi and the Rohingya instructors at one learning center said that the lack of textbooks, and the accompanying perception that no meaningful learning was taking place, contributed to a dropout rate of between 15 to 20 percent.[109]

An “Informal,” Inadequate Curriculum

The humanitarian education sector, led by UNICEF, was aware that the learning centers offered poor quality education but unable to use either the Bangladesh curriculum due to government policy prohibiting it, or the Myanmar curriculum due to Myanmar government representatives’ reported lack of agreement to allow its use in meetings with UN humanitarian officials. UNICEF responded by creating an “informal” curriculum following “continuous engagement with the Government of Bangladesh.”[110] According to the UNICEF representative in Bangladesh, as of August 2019, “we are trying to provide education within tight restrictions … but we simply cannot wait until conditions are perfect … What we ask of both governments is flexibility to allow the use of their educational resources – for example, curriculum, assessments and training manuals – in order to offer the best possible quality learning for Rohingya children”.[111]  The development of the informal curriculum proved more time-consuming and difficult than the children’s agency projected.[112]

The existence of even an informal curriculum represents an improvement over the status quo ante. According to UNICEF, the informal learning program marked a “qualitative jump” toward quality education as compared to the beginning of the humanitarian education response, when learning centers lacked “materials or a curriculum framework of any kind.”[113] Nonetheless, because of government restrictions it is a workaround that meets neither the minimal requirements of access to quality education without discrimination under international law, nor humanitarian education standards.[114]

“The objective in 2018 was to ramp up the number of learning centers, but now the priority is the quality of education,” a humanitarian official said in February 2019.[115] To address the “lack of standardized and relevant teaching and learning materials,”[116] among other problems, UNICEF spearheaded the creation of a new informal education program, initially named the Learning Competency Framework and Approach (LCFA), to which the government eventually responded with a policy document it called Guidelines for Informal Education Programming (GIEP).  

Developed for UNICEF by Dhaka University and BRAC University, the British Council, and members of the humanitarian education sector, the informal education program will comprise five “levels,” which are intended to provide informal education from pre-primary to the rough equivalent of secondary school.[117] Although it is not officially recognized as or equivalent to a curriculum, the informal education program is structured as one: it includes lesson plans, Burmese language textbooks, and for older children, increased numbers of subjects and hours of instruction. For children who advance to levels three and four of the informal program – which have not yet been approved by the government – the number of subjects should increase to include science and history. If Bangladesh approves these levels, the increase in subjects will also necessarily require the number of “contact hours” between students and instructors to increase as well. This change would limit the learning centers offering these levels to two shifts per day rather than three and as a result each center will be able to accommodate fewer students.[118] The humanitarian groups in the education sector plan to cluster learning centers together to compensate.

Discrepancies in Hours of Instruction

Although the informal education program will increase the number of hours of instruction received by Rohingya children in learning centers to a level equivalent to some Bangladeshi children, it will also perpetuate the discrepancy with others.

Before the informal education program was introduced, all classes in the learning centers lasted for just two hours per day.[119] Under the informal program, children in the first two levels – intended to be equivalent to kindergarten through the third year of primary school – will attend learning centers for 2.25 hours per day, for a total of 598 hours annually.[120] The informal program offers Rohingya children about the same number of “contact hours” that Bangladeshi children receive in the first two years, if they attend government elementary schools that operate on two shifts. The majority of government-run primary schools in Bangladesh, about 82 percent, operate on a two-shift schedule.[121] But Bangladeshi children at “one shift” schools attend them for 919 hours annually – 54 percent more time at school than the informal education program offers Rohingya children. In levels 3 and 4, if and when they are approved by the government, Rohingya children will attend learning centers for to 3.25 hours per day, or 854 hours annually. This is about 65 hours more per year than Bangladeshi children receive at two-shift government schools, but at single shift schools, they receive 1,428 hours – 44 percent more than their Rohingya peers. At one secondary school in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladeshi students in classes 6 to 10 go to school from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., with no break – or 6 hours of school per day, compared to 3.25 hours for Rohingya children.[122]

Concerns over Quality

Education experts with international NGOs operating in Cox’s Bazar have raised serious concerns about the quality of the informal curriculum.[123] One education official at an INGO described it as “scrambled-together,” and noted, “The lesson plans are meant to be temporary. They’re not being piloted, they’re supposed to fade away. It’s in English only, and teachers are asking for Burmese.”[124] Another NGO official involved in the process of developing the curriculum said, “it’s not super-basic, but it’s basic. It’s an interim measure. In the longer term we will need to have something more. OK, so many Rohingya kids never got much education. You need to not disincentivize the ones who are more advanced.”[125] UNHCR had voiced concerns about the informal curriculum as early as April 2018, at an education sector meeting: “LCFA [the informal education program] is not a curricula, and should be treated as transitional as it is not robust enough to be used as a curricula.”[126]

The informal curriculum and the education sector’s plans do not adhere to key guidance and policies on education in emergencies that have been adopted by humanitarian agencies and NGOs. For example, UNHCR’s “Education in emergency standard,” intended to guide the agency’s response to humanitarian emergencies globally provides, among other things:

  • “All children have access to primary, secondary or context-appropriate preparatory or accelerated education of good quality during the first phase of an emergency.”
  • “Refugee children and youth are able to participate in accredited national education systems and programmes under similar conditions to local children.”
  • “The same standards apply to long term and emergency situations.”[127]

Delays in Approval and Implementation

The project led by UNICEF to design the informal education program (the LCFA/GIEP) avoided crossing the government’s red lines on formal education, the use of the Bangladesh curriculum, and instruction in Bengali language. Despite these precautions, it took the government one full year to approve the first two “levels” of the informal education program, in April 2019.[128] At the time of writing, it had still not approved the rest of the curriculum – levels three, four, and five, which are intended to provide education up to the equivalent of around class 10, though higher secondary school ends at class 12. The humanitarian groups working in the education sector initially had to proceed cautiously, rolling out the informal education program on a “non-objection basis,” a humanitarian official said, adding, “the [Bangladesh] education ministry has been good – the holdup is political.”[129] An official with an international NGO confirmed, “the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education were ok with [the informal education program], but the National Task Force [on Rohingya refugee issues, led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs] refused to sign on.”[130]

Added to the delay in government approval is the delay involved in developing the informal education program in the first place, causing children to miss out on education. This was the subject of contention between UNICEF, which led the development of the informal program, and UNHCR, which opposed it.[131] According to notes from an education sector meeting on the issue in April 2018, “UNHCR noted that there exist already resources in English and that there are opportunities around certification including feasibility studies concerning the issue.”[132] The UNHCR official at the meeting was apparently referring to an adapted English translation of part of the Bangladesh curriculum: beginning in 2015, Bangladesh had allowed this curriculum to be taught to the children of “registered” Rohingya refugees who arrived before mid-1992.[133] The response from UNICEF and some INGO staff, according to a former education sector member, was to point out that the Bangladesh government had already stated that it would not approve the use of this version of the curriculum for the Rohingya children who arrived after August 2017.[134]

An internal review of UNICEF’s response to the Rohingya crisis, published in November 2018, reported that Bangladesh’s October 2017 decision to ban the use of this curriculum had “forced UNICEF to rethink its education strategy.” As a result, “developing and implementing the [informal education program] has been a lengthy and complex process,” and negotiating the informal program with the government “absorbed a significant amount of time,” when all available resources were urgently needed for “acceleration and dramatic expansion of service delivery.”[135] “We had to develop an entire curriculum for every day of every class, then translate it, then print it,” an international NGO official said.[136]

While UN agencies struggled to respond to Bangladesh’s ban on quality education for Rohingya children, the government of Bangladesh suffered virtually no public criticism for its ban from donor countries or multilateral agencies funding humanitarian education for Rohingya refugees.

Large Age Ranges in Class

In conjunction with its implementation of the informal education program, the humanitarian groups working in the education sector plan to select and group children in classes at learning centers based on their academic background and ability, which should help to address the problem of the large age range of children in learning center classes.[137]  However, the government’s 12-month delay in approving the first two levels of the informal education program raises concerns about the timeframe for the roll-out of levels 3, 4 and 5. In the interim, older or more advanced Rohingya students will continue to drop out of education due to the large age range of students in each class. Most students and instructors at learning centers who spoke to Human Rights Watch said that the age range of their classmates was large, from 5 years old to 12, and in some cases, from 4 to 14 or 5 to 15 years old.[138]The large age range was a disincentive for students older than around 10 or 11, and especially for students above this age who had received some actual education in Myanmar.[139] Some instructors at learning centers with three shifts divided classes by age, with the first shift for ages 4 to 6, the second for ages 7 to 9, and the third for older children.[140]  However, even using this tactic, children in the third shift class still ranged from ages 10 to 14: “This is tough. No one can concentrate,” one teacher said.

Lack of Consultation with Rohingya on Myanmar Curriculum

UNHCR’s “education emergency standard” provides that “members of the community participate transparently and without discrimination in processes to plan, design, implement, monitor and evaluate educational provision.”[141]  Ensuring the inclusive participation of the refugee community in the development of education programs is the first of the minimum standards for education established by the Inter-Agency Network on Education in Emergencies.[142]

Actors in the humanitarian education sector held consultations with Rohingya, including parents, children, learning-center instructors, and others, as part of the process of developing the informal education program, in January and April 2018, and January 2019. The consultations covered issues such as prior learning, language preferences, parents’ expectations, and role of communities in helping strengthen the provision of education.[143]

However, rather than a new, informal education program, virtually every Rohingya refugee child, parent and teacher whom Human Rights Watch spoke with in Bangladesh in February 2019 said they wanted to use the Myanmar curriculum, notwithstanding an education expert’s assessment that the curriculum had “a nationalistic element to the Myanmar curriculum that Rohingya don’t like.”[144] “We miss our old subjects in Myanmar,” one boy said, which included geography, history, science, English, Burmese language and grammar, arithmetic and geometry.[145] Mujibur Rahman, 15, who was in class 8 in Myanmar when in August 2017 he fled to Bangladesh, said he did not attend learning centers because “I want to develop myself, and to study all the subjects, but I can’t. I can’t get them from the learning center.”[146] None of the Rohingya refugees who had worked as educators in Myanmar whom we spoke with was aware of any consultations by the humanitarian groups working in the education sector about their preference for the informal curriculum or its development, and few knew in February 2019 that a new curriculum was being developed for the learning centers.[147]

In some cases elsewhere, host-country governments and authorities in the refugees’ country of origin have permitted refugee children to study their country of origin’s national curricula or have certified their education. The Turkish government approved and accredited a modified version of the Syrian curriculum, taught to Syrian refugee children by refugee teachers, without approval from the Syrian government.[148] In refugee camps in Thailand, children from Myanmar’s Karen and Karenni ethnic groups studied in education systems created by the refugee communities themselves; some children who returned to Myanmar obtained “transfer certificates” that effectively recognized their education in the camps, or took placement tests in order to access formal public education in Myanmar.[149]

When faced with the Bangladesh government’s ban on the use of the Bangladeshi curriculum or its English translation, UNICEF created a new curriculum from scratch. Actors in the humanitarian education sector in Bangladesh were not aware of efforts to adapt the Myanmar curriculum, apparently because the Myanmar government has not approved the use of the curriculum for Rohingya children in Bangladesh, which means that refugee children’s education would not be certified. However, the Bangladeshi government had not given any indication that it would certify the education sector’s “informal” curriculum either.[150]

An education specialist noted additional costs of the ban on the use of any formal curriculum, whether from Myanmar or Bangladesh: it “undermines teachers’ professional development, it’s a missed opportunity, it deprives teachers of a tool they’re used to. And the quality of these [national] curricula is better than what we’re developing now.”[151]

Lack of Certification

Closely related to the use of a formal curriculum is the issue of certification – whether children who complete levels of schooling then receive documentation that would be recognized by the host country or their country of origin, and would allow them to continue to higher levels. Certification of schooling is a minimum standard for education in humanitarian emergencies. The Inter-Agency Network on Education in Emergencies states,

In emergency contexts through to recovery, it is important that national authorities, educational institutions and employers recognise curricula and the certificates awarded. Communities want to know that their children’s education has value and that national authorities recognise that value.[152]

Rohingya children and teachers had different opinions about whether it was more desirable to be certified under the Bangladeshi or Myanmar systems. But at present, no education that Rohingya children complete in Bangladesh is certified. The government of Bangladesh did not certify the education Rohingya children received at learning centers before the informal education program was introduced, and has not indicated that it will certify their education under the informal program. As a result, Rohingya students who attend GIEP classes will not be able to transfer into the education system of Bangladesh, Myanmar, or any other country, or to sit for national examinations.[153] There is no possibility that their education in the camps could be used to continue to study or to gain employment.

“Certification is important – that they get some kind of recognition, something useable,” Abul Kalam, the then-Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner told Human Rights Watch in February 2019.[154] But he added that the issue was beyond his control. “It needs to be approved at Dhaka level.”[155]

By contrast, Bangladesh has accredited education programs that target out-of-school Bangladeshi children, run by the same humanitarian agencies that teach Rohingya children. Bangladeshi children who follow these accredited programs, which are run out of learning centers in host communities, are able to take primary school certificate examinations, and can then transition to government secondary schools, according to an official at the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), a Bangladesh-based INGO.[156] These programs will be scaled up with support from international donors. In June 2018, the World Bank approved a $700 million concessional credit for Bangladesh’s Quality Learning for All Program, in order to “bring about one million out-of-school children to learning centers that would follow national primary education curriculum, and thus help them integrate with the formal education system.”[157]

Myanmar has not permitted Rohingya refugee children to take its national examinations.[158] A student, Atif A., 14, who had completed class 8 in Myanmar, urged the Bangladesh government to permit Rohingya students to study the Myanmar curriculum: “In Bangladesh we want the government to approve Burmese curriculum so then we can go to university,” he wrote, in English.[159]

Osman O., a Rohingya teacher at a learning center in camp 7, appealed to “international stakeholders” to ensure that Rohingya children’s education is certified:

The [Bangladesh] authorities [should] ensure that the children can follow the Burmese curriculum and get formal certification, for when the children return to Myanmar and try to resume their studies. There should be some international recognition of the education that they complete that will be accepted by the Myanmar authorities.[160]

Children also argued for the need for a certified education. Mohamed Tua Sin, 15, was in class 9 in Myanmar and now studies with a private tutor 5 days a week. “If anyone goes back to Myanmar then if we had certificates we could go to university there. That’s my first choice. If not, then to university in Bangladesh or another foreign country.”[161] Mohamad Sufire, 14, said he was in class 8 when he fled from Myanmar, and now studies with a tutor. He wrote: “We need education because education can change our life. […] Although we study hard in this camp, the teachers can’t give us any document [certification] of education.”[162]

A meeting of humanitarian actors working in the education sector noted that a global initiative, with UNICEF and the University of Cambridge, aims to create an “internationally recognized academic certificate for children uprooted by emergencies,” and that “a pilot has been planned for the development of an education in emergencies certification and curricular framework.”[163] Academic experts from Cambridge and UNICEF visited the Cox’s Bazar camps in 2018 and “looked at readiness for certification.”[164] An agreement with the university was meant to be signed in July 2019, according to humanitarian officials.[165] This global initiative and a potential pilot for Rohingya refugee children may eventually provide positive outcomes, but these are uncertain, and do not address or relieve Bangladesh (or Myanmar) of responsibility for the ongoing refusal to allow Rohingya refugee children access to any certified education, in line with Bangladesh’s international obligations.

Ban on Instruction in Bengali Language

Minimum standards developed by the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies note that refugees’ “future opportunities and what is needed to allow them to continue their education in host or home communities after an emergency need to be considered” when deciding on the language of instruction. Nonetheless, “in situations of extended displacement, opportunities should be provided for learners to learn the language of the host community or country. This enables them to function within the host community and to continue to access education and opportunities.”[166]

The informal education program being rolled out in the refugee camps is subject to the governmental ban on any instruction in the Bengali language, or Bangla, to Rohingya children. Asked about the policy by a journalist, the former head of Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission said, “Our policy is to provide informal education. Why do the Rohingya need to learn Bangla? Their language is Burmese …. They are here temporarily. The government is negotiating their repatriation strategy.”[167]

In October 2017, the governmental National Task Force on Rohingya issues, chaired by the foreign ministry, issued a decision that the only permitted languages of instruction for Rohingya refugees are Burmese and English.[168] In a 2018 request to the Global Partnership for Education for an $8.3 million education grant for Rohingya children, which was later approved, Bangladesh emphasized the “written instructions from the National Task Force on Undocumented Myanmar Nationals and written feedback from MoPME [the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education] not to use Bangla language in the teaching learning process for Rohingya children and also considering the education system and arrangement in Rakhine state from where they came from”.[169] The government reiterated the ban on Bengali language instruction in May 2019, in its Guidelines for Informal Education Programming (GIEP) policy, which refers to the National Task Force’s instructions “to provide ‘informal’ learning … that … should be either in Myanmar or English”.[170] An education sector update from the same month lists the languages in which teaching guides, student materials and workbooks, flashcards and posters, were being printed, and ends: “NO STUDENT MATERIAL IN BANGLA.”[171]

All teachers and many of the children who Human Rights Watch interviewed said that the Bangladesh government had prohibited instruction in the Bengali language in the camps. Four Rohingya men who work as learning center instructors, who live in the same area of one camp, said they were notified of the prohibition in November 2017 by the majhi in their area – a Rohingya refugee, typically a man with higher social status, responsible for overseeing 100 people, and reporting to the Bangladeshi “Camp in-Charge” (CIC) – who warned that “anyone who teaches Bangla will go to jail for six months.”[172] A Rohingya man, Anwar Islam, who lives in a different camp and teaches in an unrecognized community school there, said that the CIC of his camp “told people who told the majhi, you’re not allowed to teach in Bangla or you’ll be punished.” Asked whether he wanted to be allowed to teach Bengali, Islam, a former elementary-school teacher, said that since Rohingya are from Rakhine state, “we’re in Myanmar, but we live close to Bangladesh so we need both languages.”[173]

Rohingya teachers also identified a need for Bengali language instruction. Nur Bashar, 42, who graduated from Sittwe University before Rohingya students were effectively banned in 2012 and who is now teaching the Myanmar curriculum to students out of his own shelter, said, “instruction in English, Burmese and Bangla – all are needed.”[174] Mohamed Siddiq, 32, was a volunteer “community teacher” in Myanmar – he taught at the request of villagers after non-Rohingya teachers refused to teach at their school – and now works as a learning center instructor. “I can’t wait to be back to Myanmar, but if we must stay here for eight or ten years, Bangla will be very useful,” he said.[175]

Bangladeshi citizens working as instructors in learning centers also said Rohingya children wanted to learn Bengali, out of curiosity when their teachers used Bangla words, and because they wanted to be able to speak with the Bangladeshi children they interacted with in host communities.[176] Another teacher said her students “are eager to learn the Bangla language but the teachers are not allowed to teach it and are not even supposed to speak it, but some use formal Bangla words.”[177] Another Bangladeshi instructor said,

Sometimes the children tell me, ‘Apu [Sister], we want to learn Bangla. We want to go to the Bangladeshi schools, as they have benches, table, chairs, books, and colorful uniforms.’ But we don’t have authorization to teach them any Bangla.[178]

Another Bangladeshi teacher in a learning center said of her Rohingya students, “it would be good if they go back to Myanmar, but until then, as long as they are in Bangladesh, they should learn Bangla. It can be an advantage for the kids to learn Bangla along with Burmese.”[179]

Lack of Secondary Education

All children, including refugees, have the right to access secondary education on an equal basis without discrimination.[180] UNHCR’s standard for education in emergencies provides that refugee children should “have access to primary, secondary or context-appropriate preparatory or accelerated education of good quality during the first phase of an emergency,” and that “refugee children and youth are able to participate in accredited national education systems and programmes under similar conditions to local children” during both the emergency and longer-term humanitarian responses.[181]

More than two years after the Myanmar military attacks of August 2017, the only education that the government and humanitarian sector have made available to Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh is in learning centers that are only intended for children up to the age of 14.[182] This age restriction is due to government policy, a senior humanitarian official said, but added, “I’m not sure where the age restriction came from – if they [the government] are worried about integration [of refugees], why only 4 to 14?” In any case, he added, “we have to work on children 15 to 18. They are idle in the camp, and extremely vulnerable to problematic activities. Yaba trafficking [an artificial psychotropic drug] is huge in the camp. And human trafficking.”[183]

The result of the lack of secondary-level education is a precipitous decline in enrollment at learning centers among children in that age range. A factsheet compiled from information provided the humanitarian groups working in the education sector reported that as of July 28, 2019 the sector was delivering education to 296,000 out of a target of 393,000 Rohingya children ages 3-18, but just 9,000 of these children were ages 15 – 18, out of a target of 45,000 children in that age group.[184] Of the 99 Rohingya children Human Rights Watch interviewed in February 2019, most of the 65 who attended learning centers were between the ages of 6 to 12. Abdul Ayas, 11, who was in class 7 before his family fled from Myanmar, said he was not attending a learning center because “it’s not the right standard of education. I want to go to high school and university.”[185]

The government of Bangladesh has only approved the first two levels of the GIEP, but even if all five levels were approved and rolled out promptly, they are only intended to comprise the equivalent of pre-primary through around class 10, without accreditation, the opportunity to take examinations, or continue in school. Secondary education in Bangladesh runs to class 10 and upper secondary education includes classes 11 and 12. While a “learning framework for adolescents” is also being developed, with a target of providing 52,000 children ages 15 to 18 with “skills development” and “self-empowerment” – around 100 “adolescent clubs” had been established by August 2019 – it is not formal academic instruction at a secondary school level.[186] The lack of secondary-school-level classes in the Guidelines for Informal Education Programming compounds the discrimination that Rohingya children already face by being denied access to formal, accredited education.

If and when levels 3, 4 and 5 of the informal education program are rolled out at learning centers, they will not address the concerns of Rohingya children who feared that they could not reach their career aspirations without completing secondary school. Mohamed Tawky, 12, said, “I need a school with class five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, and a full education to be an automotive engineer.”[187] Mohaziya Mohamed, 9, said he was attending a moktab with about 100 other students for basic religious instruction and to learn the Quran, but was frustrated that his learning center would not provide the opportunity to enroll in secondary education or university, because “I want to become an aeronautical engineer.”[188]

Some educational needs assessments have emphasized the low level of education among the Rohingya refugee population, but there is a demonstrated need for secondary level education among Rohingya refugees. While more data is needed to assess the scope of the denial of education to children who had already completed years of schooling in Myanmar, nonetheless, tens of thousands of Rohingya children had completed some years of schooling in Myanmar before fleeing to Cox’s Bazar, according to information provided to Human Rights Watch by a group of former high school and middle school teachers in Myanmar who founded an unofficial secondary school in the refugee camps and who have an extensive network of former teaching colleagues now living as refugees.[189] These children’s education is not recognized in Bangladesh, which does not allow Rohingya any pathway to continue in formal education, including to pursue secondary education.

The UN-coordinated Joint Response Plan for 2019 concluded that a shortage of “sufficiently educated” Rohingya teachers “remains a challenge.”[190] As of June 2019, only the first level of the informal curriculum was being widely implemented. Given that Rohingya students will hit a ceiling after four or five “levels” of education under the informal education program, with no option to continue their education, it is not clear how the program could provide refugee instructors with the education that would be needed to teach its higher levels.

Lack of Support for Community-Based Education

Some Rohingya refugees have attempted to fill the gaps in access to education themselves by setting up schools and offering lessons as private tutors, using the Myanmar curriculum or as much of it as they could access through copies of battered textbooks. However, these Rohingya educators’ response to the needs of children in their community have not enjoyed any support from the humanitarian education sector, and some of these unrecognized schools have been closed down by Bangladeshi camp officials. Teachers and students at these schools told Human Rights Watch that they were motivated to compensate for the lack of quality education at learning centers, the desire of students who had gone to school in Myanmar to continue their education, the lack of any educational programming for children ages 14 and older, and the wish of former teachers to contribute to their community and continue teaching.

A survey and interviews conducted by the Peace Research Institute: Oslo (PRIO) in March and April 2019 identified 27 community-led “education networks” in the camps, comprised of 376 teachers and 9,848 students.[191] These included schools run by camp-based civil society organizations, such as the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights and the Rohingya Women Empowerment and Advocacy Network, while others were formed solely for the purpose of education, such as the Rohingya Learning Education Center. According to PRIO, “Community educators say they are unclear about why the GIEP and the new sets of curriculum are being developed; most strongly prefer using the Myanmar government curriculum and wonder why it is not being used by education NGOs.”[192]

All the private tutors and teachers at unofficial, community-run schools whom Human Rights Watch interviewed teach the Myanmar curriculum, using copies of old textbooks. Children studying with tutors reported varying hours of instruction, from one hour per week to two hours per day, six days per week.[193]

Mohamed M., 20, a former teacher in Myanmar, said he began volunteering as a tutor when families in the camps asked him for help. He teaches 30 students, ages 13 to 18, from 2 to 4 p.m. five days per week. “I need books from the Myanmar curriculum, but they are not available, only photocopies, and there aren’t enough,” he said.[194] Amin, a student who studies with a different tutor, said he had been in class 6 in Myanmar. He does not attend “a learning center because it’s only for kids, not for classes 3 or 4 and older, but a private tutor is not enough for students. We need a curriculum and a school, but there isn’t any school to go to. The tutor doesn’t take money, he’s doing it only for our future. But NGOs should support them to increase the scale.”[195]

There is also a clear demand for education in the Myanmar curriculum at lower grade levels, because of the poor perceived quality of instruction in learning centers and the familiarity and hoped-for benefits of the Myanmar curriculum upon the refugees’ eventual return home.[196] Two former teachers in Myanmar have opened an unofficial school in the camps that “teaches the same subjects as the learning centers, but in a completely different way,” said Bashar B., 53, who had taught 4th and 5th grades in a government school in Myanmar for 25 years.[197] “In the learning centers they teach the same thing day after day, which is not good for the students.” After refugee parents asked them to do so, the two teachers opened their unofficial school in a disused medical center in the camps.[198] They volunteer their time, and teach 40 students, in two classrooms, one for children in classes 1 through 3, and the other, class 4. “I collect books from Myanmar, and photocopy them for the students,” Bashar B. said, but because the school uses a curriculum, it does not receive any support. “Earlier we had 100 students but there weren’t enough materials, so the rest left.”

The Bangladeshi government has not only failed to take advantage of teachers in the camp, it has gone so far as to shut down unofficial schools, the only facilities teaching with a curriculum. Nur N., 42, used to work in an unofficial school set up by refugees in Camp 13 in June 2018, which the Camp-in-Charge closed in December. “There was one woman and two men teachers, and 60 students in classes 5 to 7, but higher levels were not allowed. We were told it was closed according to a decision from the government. There was no alternative for the students when the school was closed.”[199] Teachers then opened another school, which also teaches the Myanmar curriculum, but only for classes 1 through 3. “We are only teaching the primary level, so it’s not at risk like the previous school,” Bashar said. “We’ve only collected books for the lower classes and are photocopying them. If we can get books for classes 4 to 10, we will ask the CIC [Camp-in-Charge] to let us open a school for higher levels.” The school has 200 students, including 120 girls.[200]

CICs in some camps have permitted unofficial Rohingya schools to operate, but the humanitarian education sector does not provide them with any support if they teach the Myanmar curriculum rather than the informal lessons approved for the learning centers.

Education sector documents, and interviews with Rohingya children and teachers, indicate that humanitarian actors are coordinating teaching schedules with religious schools (moktabs) and sometimes using the same buildings, so as to enable students to attend both religious education and learning centers, and to maximize the space available for learning centers. Camp residents said that the only condition Camp-in-Charge officials imposed on moktabs was that their hours of instruction should not conflict with the hours at learning centers.[201]

Humanitarian groups working in the education sector should work to replicate this approach with the unofficial schools and tutors providing refugee children with the secular education they want: in the Myanmar curriculum.

In another camp, Salah Uddin, a 57-year-old refugee and former high school headmaster in Myanmar, joined with other former teachers and set up the Pioneer Rohingya High School in July 2018, which teaches the Myanmar curriculum, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. five days a week.[202] Human Rights Watch met with Salah Uddin and three other Rohingya refugees, all former teachers, who teach at the high school, and four students, ages 15 to 20. The Camp in-Charge of Camp 7 in Kutupalong consented to the establishment of the school in a disused building, but although “the floor is earth, some of the classrooms have no walls, and the roof is tarpaulin,” the humanitarian education sector has not provided any support, Salah Uddin said.

We haven’t approached UNICEF but we tried an NGO that works with them, but they said they couldn’t support us. Nobody has come to help us, because the government of Bangladesh has not agreed to allow middle and high schools inside the camp, only learning centers. We are the only high school. Our students come from camps 1 through 10, in other words, from all over, even though we have no desks or benches.[203]

A teacher at the Pioneer school, Ali Hossin, 36, who formerly taught in a middle school in Myanmar, said that staff at the humanitarian NGO that works in the education sector had told him, “it is not allowed to provide formal education here, only kindergarten and grades one to three maximum.”[204] The teachers presented Human Rights Watch with a detailed construction plan for the school building, including a list of needed materials and costs.[205]

Teachers at unofficial schools said that they were ineligible for support from international donors because they taught the full Myanmar curriculum, which differs from and comprises many more subjects than those approved by Bangladesh to be taught at the humanitarian education sector’s learning centers: geography, history, science, English, Burmese language and grammar (as separate classes), arithmetic, and geometry.[206] Mohamed Hanim, 22, a teacher at an unofficial school, said, “Learning centers are all the same, they only teach three subjects. People were missing the other subjects and wanted more. I teach all eight Burmese subjects. But we can’t join the learning center program because we teach all the subjects.”[207] Anwar Islam, a teacher at another unofficial school, recalled tightening official restrictions on the education that Rohingya were allowed to provide for themselves in the camps:

When we first came [to the camps], the CIC announced that all subjects were allowed, but later, he said we were only permitted to teach English, Burmese and math. We hope someone will support our schools, or at least, let us volunteer.[208]

Ban on Construction and Inadequate School Facilities

To bring Rohingya children into some form of learning while still operating under the Bangladesh government’s restrictions, the humanitarian education sector initially prioritized the construction and staffing of “temporary learning centers.” As of July 2019, 23 months into the crisis, the humanitarian groups working in the education sector reported having constructed almost 3,000 learning centers in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps, most of which had one Rohingya and one Bangladeshi national as teachers.[209]

Bangladesh prohibits humanitarian groups from building permanent school buildings in the camps for refugees who arrived since August 2017, though there are sturdier school buildings in the camps for the smaller number of “registered” refugees who arrived before mid-1992.[210] The learning centers, like nearly all structures in the newer Cox’s Bazar camps, “have been constructed using untreated bamboo in direct contact with the ground, creating perfect conditions for pests and rot. The above factors mean that the vast majority of bamboo within the camps will need to be replaced within the next 0-20 months,” according to humanitarian agencies.[211]

The government said it is considering to allow concrete foundations for learning centers.[212] However, the walls and roofs of learning centers are still primarily from bamboo and have had to be replaced.[213] “We couldn’t even treat them [with weather-resistant chemicals] to make them last for two years,” an NGO education official said, due to government restrictions. Architects designed a monsoon-resistant, two-floor bamboo structure, a pilot of which had been inaugurated by government officials, “but it needs a lot of bamboo, and is not as durable” as a metal-walled structure such as a caravan, an education specialist said.[214] At the time of Human Rights Watch’s research trips to Cox’s Bazar in February and June 2019, the only permanent structures in the camps were the offices of Bangladeshi Camp-In-Charge (CIC) officials, seconded from the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief to the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC) to oversee the camps. “The government still regards this as temporary and is resisting permanent [school] structures. The only things that are permanent are the CIC offices,” a humanitarian official said.[215]

The humanitarian groups working in the education sector reported that about 1,600 out of 3,000 learning centers had access to water and toilets. Children whom Human Rights Watch interviewed in February 2019 were attending about 40 different learning centers. They said their facilities did not have electricity, desks, or chairs. Most did not have toilets nearby; some had toilets but no water.[216] Teachers from 18 learning centers in the camps, which Human Rights Watch visited, said there was no drinking water and no bathroom facilities for children, which interrupted children’s learning. “We have a water tank but most of the time we don’t get water,” Ayas said. “Some children ask for water, and if there is none, they go somewhere else [to get a drink] and then don’t come back.”[217]

Due to the lack of space in the crowded camps, humanitarian groups envision creating “clusters” of four to six learning centers each, in which children “will be grouped according to competency level,” as well as increasing “mobile learning and other outreach services” and tutors who teach in their own shelters.[218] They have also set up 530 “mobile learning centers” and 750 “home-based learning centers” in refugees’ own shelters.[219] 

Lack of School Feeding Programs

School feeding programs are often rolled out in humanitarian responses to emergencies in order increase school attendance, learning outcomes, and improve children’s health.[220] However, school feeding programs have not been implemented consistently in the Cox’s Bazar camps. UNICEF reported in 2018 that “fortified biscuits are not distributed in all [learning] centres and became a criterion for families to enrol their children in the centres.”[221] The problem had not yet been resolved by February 2019, as Rohingya teachers and children in the camps told Human Rights Watch some centers offered children nutritional biscuits, but others still did not.[222] Children were especially eager to attend moktabs, because “they provide free food and sometimes clothing,” a 21-year-old Bangladeshi instructor at a learning center in the camps noted.[223] Another learning center teacher said the parents of three boys in his class withdrew them and put them in a moktab: “there, the kids can get free food and accommodation along with religious education. I couldn’t talk the parents out of it.”[224]

Children’s Collection of Aid Harms Access to Education

Many children and learning center instructors said that attendance dropped off badly due to children needing to be present in order to receive humanitarian aid distributions in the camps.

Rohingya children told Human Rights Watch that they were often unable to attend learning centers on days when they needed to collect humanitarian aid supplies in the refugee camps. Mohammad Ayas, 20, a Rohingya teacher at a learning center, said that “usually we get more than 75 percent attendance every day. But when the kids have to go to collect the rations or aid, they don’t come to the classes. Everyone needs to collect their own ration, and the Rohingyas get aid per-head, so we miss the students on those days.”[225] “Whenever there is a relief [humanitarian aid] distribution, the kids don’t attend schools,” an instructor at another learning center said. “In a week, there are two or three days when some children don’t come to the LCs because they go to collect their relief supplies.”[226]

Other Obstacles to Education

Gender-Based Violence and Limited Access to Education for Girls

Bangladesh and humanitarian agencies should counter the significant pressures adolescent girls face not to attend school, which are due in part to the targeting of women and girls in the camps for sexual violence, and the failure to protect them or provide services for victims, and specific targeting of female teachers by a Rohingya armed group.[227]

Girls are vulnerable to sexual and domestic violence in the camps, leading some parents to tell their daughters to stop going to learning centers due to concerns for their safety.[228] The Myanmar army used rape as a weapon of war, including against children.[229]

A Rohingya instructor said that when Rohingya girls become 10 to 12 years old, “the parents don’t allow them to come to learning centers, as they feel like after that age the girls need to be in the house, and also don’t feel safe to send their daughters outside when they turn 10 years old.” Six girls in her class had stopped attending for this reason, she said.[230] Another instructor said he had lost 20 girls from her learning center because “their families told them to stop coming to school. Parents tell me, ‘My daughter’s period started, so she has to stay home’.” [231] Some girls were able to continue studying with private teachers at home, he said, but some were unable to find Rohingya women qualified to teach them. In a positive step, teachers and education program administrators at another NGO described efforts to have Rohingya religious leaders and majhis encourage parents to continue to send their daughters to school after the onset of puberty. [232]

A group of humanitarian organizations working against gender-based violence plans to create complaints mechanisms and improve referrals for victims of sexual violence in the camps, including through coordination with Bangladesh ministries such as social welfare and justice.[233] However, as of November 2018,

only 43% of minimum service coverage has been achieved for urgently required GBV [gender-based violence] case management and psychosocial support for children and adults. … Additionally, accessibility of these services remains limited due to movement restrictions as well as fear of women and girls to move outside of their shelter.[234]

As of the first quarter of 2019, there were widespread reports of rape and sexual assault in the camps, but only 16 percent of rape cases were reported to medical staff within 72 hours.[235] Girls and women had been “pulled backward and raped in latrines at night,” an official with a medical NGO said, causing girls to be too afraid to use the latrines after dark in the unlit camps.[236]

Security is insufficient for women and girls in the camps, where only 992 Bangladeshi policemen are assigned, a Bangladesh police superintendent told Reuters in April 2019, and do not patrol at night.[237]

Humanitarian NGOs and UN agencies are operating shelters or safe spaces for women and girls in the camps and outside. UN Women was operating two women-only-facilities and had contracts for the construction of three more facilities as of February 2019, each of which provided a medical clinic.[238] A local NGO, Pulse Bangladesh, operates 10 safe spaces, each with 5 rooms, for Rohingya women and girls in the camps, and a shelter outside the camp for women and girls from the camps as well as from the local Bangladeshi community. There are roughly 25 spaces available in the shelter, which “are in very high demand,” and three children had been born there, the director said.[239]

Men attacking or threatening women to keep them from working with NGOs could limit the number of Rohingya women willing to work as instructors or in other NGO-run child protection or gender-based violence programs that help girls. Reuters and Fortify Rights, an NGO, reported in early 2019 that members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a small armed group, had threatened and assaulted women for working with aid groups in the camps, including by breaking into their shelters and beating them with sticks.[240] An education specialist at BRAC told Reuters that 150 female teachers had stopped coming to work in late January after receiving or hearing about the “violent threats”. On Twitter, ARSA simply denied the reports. A young woman who was threatened said that “many [people] feel like us,” i.e. that women should be able to help their community through work with NGOs, but that ARSA “put superglue over our mouths.”[241]

Children with Disabilities

Estimates of the number of Rohingya children with disabilities vary, but all available information indicates that at the least, tens of thousands of children are affected.  A UNHCR update from May 2019 cites an estimate that 4 percent of Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar have disabilities, while another NGO report found that 12 percent of refugee households have one family member with a permanent disability.[242] One assessment found that 17 percent of families had a temporary disability from injury such as gunshots and landmines.[243] Another estimates that 17 percent of Rohingya refugee children are suffering “severe mental health impacts.”[244]

Humanitarian agencies need to better identify Rohingya refugee children with disabilities and mental health needs. The vast majority of Rohingya refugee children with disabilities may be completely excluded from education.

Some NGOs, such as Humanity & Inclusion, have inclusive education programs in the camps and host communities, but the needs and numbers of children with disabilities appears to far outstrip the availability of inclusive programs.[245] Other NGOs like CBM provide child-friendly spaces, and crucial health and other services for people with disabilities in the camps, but not education.[246]

During visits to the camps in 2018 and 2019, Human Rights Watch has observed children with visible physical disabilities, which were often the result of attacks in Myanmar.[247] However, during visits to 25 learning centers in the camps in February 2019, Human Rights Watch did not observe any children with visible disabilities attending classes. The difficulty of traveling to learning centers along narrow, steep, uneven, often slippery paths in the crowded camps is a barrier to education for children with physical disabilities.

Restrictions on International NGOs that Provide Education

Some international humanitarian NGOs described what they believed to be arbitrary difficulties obtaining government permission to carry out education projects for Rohingya refugee children. According to local and international NGO staff, before being eligible to apply for permission to carry out projects, NGOs must be registered, a process that entails an “FD 1” application to a specialized body, which is then transferred to the Ministry of Home Affairs, which then requests investigations by security agencies.[248]

Three international NGOs described opacity and delays in the registration process, and as a result, difficulty in planning and carrying out projects and obtaining work permits for foreign staff.[249] One education specialist who worked in Cox’s Bazar in 2018 said that it had been especially difficult for INGOs to obtain government approval for education projects:

First you need an FD 1. These are under a big rock for international NGOs. They don’t want to register new NGOs. Then you should get an FD 6, a permit to operate for development projects. The normal procedure is that permit for the project would include staff work permits, valid for one year. But the government doesn’t want to sign off for any NGO to deliver education. So you have to get an FD 7 permit. It’s valid for three months, meant for short emergency response projects, and you can’t hang a work permit off of it. You have to get a new FD 7 every three months – and if you write ‘education’ they won’t sign it for you – some NGOs write in ‘play areas’ or whatever instead of ‘education’ for their project descriptions.[250]

Child Labor

Some children said that they prioritized earning an income for their families or collecting humanitarian assistance over attending classes because of the poor quality of education available in learning centers, and because of the level of deprivation their families faced in the refugee camps. Given the Rohingya population’s vulnerability, the fact that Bangladesh bans Rohingya adults from the job market may exacerbate Rohingya children’s vulnerability to child labor. Some boys are reportedly exploited in bonded labor in the fish drying industry in Cox’s Bazar, while Rohingya girls work in the homes of Bangladeshi families up to 150 kilometers from the camps, and some girls are reportedly forced into commercial sexual exploitation.[251] A UNICEF assessment noted that “the lack of adolescent, youth and adult education is a critical gap in the education response” because out-of-school children are more vulnerable to child labor as well as violence, trafficking, child marriage and exploitation.[252]

Child labor was a significant cause of dropouts from learning centers, especially among boys, according to teachers. One learning center instructor said that seven or eight of the 40 children in her class, all boys, had dropped out to work because their families needed income.[253] Abdus Shukur, a 26-year-old teacher, said two boys, around 10 years old, dropped out of his learning center “to take jobs in a local tea stall,” where they were paid very little, but that “their parents said even this cash is helpful.”[254] Another instructor, Ruma, 21, said she followed up with parents whose children stopped attending the learning center to work. “There are parent meetings two times a month, and we ask them why they are withdrawing their children and putting them to work. They always reply, ‘We need money. The aid is not always sufficient for large families. It is better to put the kids into the work. Earlier is better.’”[255] Toslima, an instructor at a learning center, said “one of my smartest students is selling puffed rice in a nearby market, because his parents did not want him to come to class but to contribute to the family income.”[256]

The UN has called on Bangladesh to ease restrictions on freedom of movement and access to income-generating activities for Rohingya refugees, as is required to respect their rights.[257] In other refugee contexts, restrictions on freedom of movement and bans on access to the labor market for adult refugees have exacerbated the prevalence of exploitative child labor among refugee children.[258]

Denial of Birth Registration

A policy that risks prolonging the denial of Rohingya refugee children’s right to education and exacerbating the low rates of school enrollment among Bangladeshi children in Cox’s Bazar, is Bangladesh’s suspension of official birth registration for all children – both Bangladeshi and Rohingya – in the district. Bangladesh requires families to present a birth certificate for children to access education. Although Bangladeshi law, in line with international obligations, provides for the right of every child to birth registration, the government has suspended all birth registration in Cox’s Bazar since the influx of Rohingya refugees in August 2017, including for Bangladeshi children born there, due to fears that Rohingya families would try to bribe officials to provide birth certificates that falsely stated that their children were Bangladeshi citizens.[259]

The first sentence on the homepage of Bangladesh’s Office of the Registrar General of Birth and Death website quotes article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: “Every child has the right to a name, birth registration and nationality. As far as possible every child has the right to know and be cared for by his/her parents,” and described how the law had been revised with support from UNICEF.[260] The Births and Deaths Registration Act of 2004 requires the registration of the birth of “any person” in Bangladesh, including “any refugee taking shelter in Bangladesh.”[261] The Registration Act, which came into force in July 2006, requires a birth certificate to be used as proof of age for enrolment in educational facilities.[262]

On March 9, 2015, Bangladesh began to register the births of registered refugee children born in the camps, including previous unregistered births since 1992, in the Bangladesh Civil Registry.[263] Bangladesh had “started the process” with the condition that “the birth certificates would have a seal saying the children were Myanmar citizens,” according to the Ukhiya sub-district officer in Cox’s Bazar, but “the birth registration has been stopped since the latest influx.”[264] After August 2017, the authorities suspended the registration of all births in Cox’s Bazar, including for Bangladeshi nationals.[265]

Since then, the authorities and UN agencies have been “registering” newborn Rohingya children, but these processes were conducted for limited purposes, and have not resulted in the children being given access to a legal identity, as is the case for Bangladeshi children in other districts whose births are registered. In January 2018, for instance, the Bangladesh health minister stated that the Army, UNHCR and the government were registering newborns in the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, and that the government was drawing up plans for a vaccination program for Rohingya children.[266] In July 2019, the home minister said that 1,118,576 Rohingya had been biometrically registered, and that a “work-station” was open in Cox’s Bazar to register newborn Rohingya children.[267]

While the government has collected information about and collaborated with UN agencies to issue biometric identification documents to Rohingya refugees for humanitarian purposes, it has prohibited Rohingya from obtaining Bangladeshi identification documents. In January 2018, the government launched investigations and prosecutions against Rohingya and Bangladeshi nationals responsible for fraudulently providing them with official documents, according to news reports.[268] In January and February 2019, the government ordered public and private schools in Cox’s Bazar to expel Rohingya students who had enrolled in secondary schools by obtaining identification documents that falsely identified them as Bangladeshi nationals.[269] In February 2018, the Registrar General of Birth and Death ordered an investigation into an allegation by the Cox’s Bazar district administration that birth certificates had been issued to “at least two” Rohingya children.[270]As of September 2019, birth registration remained suspended in Cox’s Bazar, according to humanitarian NGO staff.[271]

The Bangladeshi Citizenship Act of 1951 is based on the principle of jus solis, allowing all persons born in Bangladesh to acquire citizenship at birth, according to UNHCR, but in practice no Rohingya children born in Bangladesh can avail themselves of this right.[272]

International Funding

The education sector includes UN humanitarian agencies and international and local NGOs. The sector has taken responsibility for providing education for Rohingya refugees as well as improving access to education for children in Bangladeshi host communities. International donors are funding education for Rohingya refugees, primarily through funding to UNICEF, which coordinates education for Rohingya who arrived since August 2017, and UNHCR, which has since 1996 supported education for “registered” Rohingya refugees who arrived in Bangladesh before mid-1992 and their children. Multilateral funding for education that has already been committed includes a $25 million World Bank grant, $12 million from Education Cannot Wait, a funding mechanism for education in emergencies, and $8.3 million from the Global Partnership for Education. Major foreign donations for education include $19.2 million from Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Foundation, $10 million from KFW (the German state development bank), and $8.2 million from Canada.[273] The US reported giving several multi-million dollar grants to UNICEF’s response to the Rohingya humanitarian crisis, and the UK reported that part of a September 2019 grant of £87 million would support education.[274]

Insufficient Donor Funding for the Humanitarian Education Sector

Donor funding for education for Rohingya children in Bangladesh is linked to the UN-coordinated Joint Response Plans for the Rohingya Humanitarian Emergency, which reflect the annual funding needs of UN agencies and NGO implementing partners for education programs as well as programs to address shelter, food, health, water and sanitation, protection, and other humanitarian needs. Education needs, as budgeted under the UN-coordinated Joint Response Plan (JRP), were not fully funded in 2018 or 2019.[275]The education appeal reflected in the JRP was 40 percent funded as of October 7, 2019.[276]

The education budget in the JRP may not reflect the full amount of funding actually needed to support Rohingya children’s access to education.[277] Staff at two humanitarian NGOs with education programs said that the 2018 JRP education budget was too low, because it was determined in a way that required them to shrink their programming in order to fit within the overall education budget, rather than adding up each NGOs’ education programs to as to determine the education budget. “The total was set, and then to fit within that, we had to reduce our education budget,” one NGO employee said.[278]

International and local NGO workers have warned of the need for predictable, multi-year support for education. Most humanitarian funding, including for education, is provided in grants of one year or less.[279] In other contexts, a lack of transparent, predictable funding for education has led to inefficient and inadequate education programs for refugee children.[280]

Humanitarian officials worried in February that the education sector’s multi-annual costs would be difficult to fund, particularly a projected $9 million per year in salaries for the instructors. “To sustain that indefinitely is a huge challenge, so we are trying to … reduce costs,” one official said.[281] A local NGO director argued, “we need long-term plans to get a good result. Big [international] organizations have the capacity, but they won’t stay here. If local organizations had the capacity – we will stay. Even if our programs are closed down, we will still be here.”[282]

Staff at some NGOs in the humanitarian education sector also encouraged donors to support monitoring of the quality of education. “Some donors will say, ‘Build a hundred learning centers,’ but we aren’t getting funding for quality control,” an international NGO staff member focused on education said.[283] An education official at another NGO said, “if we’re doing competency assessments for students [to place them in one of the first two levels available under the informal education program], we really need to be doing them for teachers, too.”[284]

Donor Responses to Government Restrictions on Refugee Education

Donors that are providing much-needed support to Rohingya children have privately acknowledged concerns about Bangladesh’s restrictions on their access to education, but public criticism has been muted. Donors should seek ways to leverage their funding and press Bangladesh to agree to meet human rights benchmarks on education for Rohingya children, including access to formal, accredited education.

The World Bank has recognized the need for multi-annual, concessional funding for low-income countries hosting refugees, and raised $2 billion in dedicated funding for this purpose in 2018.[285] It has required some governments to have an action plan to meet refugees’ needs in order to access this “sub-window” of financing: the bank delayed funding for an employment program in Ethiopia, for instance, until the government fulfils its commitment to allow some refugees to move freely and legally work outside of camps.[286] The Bank has also refused to finance education systems that violate human rights, including by withholding a $300 million loan to Tanzania until schools stop barring and expelling pregnant girls.[287] In Lebanon, where the bank is providing a $100 million credit and $124 in trust fund financing over five years to improve education for Syrian refugees as well as vulnerable Lebanese children, it has linked disbursals to meeting annual benchmarks such as increases in enrollment and better data collection and transparency.[288]

The World Bank’s new lending globally is guided by its 2016 Environmental and Social Framework, which went into effect on October 1, 2018. This framework states that “inclusion” is “critical for all of the World Bank’s development interventions,” and “encompasses policies to promote equality and non-discrimination by improving the access of all people, including the poor and disadvantaged, to services and benefits such as education,” among others.[289] Also, the World Bank, as well as other funders and humanitarian actors, has endorsed the “Education Charter for Action,” which restates commitments under the Global Compact for Refugees to “provide quality primary and secondary education in safe learning environments for all refugee children, and to do so within a few months of the initial displacement,” and to “promote tertiary education, skills training and vocational education,” and in this regard, “to turn our promises into tangible changes for refugees; in long-term plans that we invest in, implement and review in collaboration with host countries.”[290] Consistent with its inclusion policy, the World Bank stated that as part of its fulfillment of the commitment to “support the inclusion of refugees in national education systems,” it is investing in education in Bangladesh, among other countries, and will help these governments “develop strategic education sector plans that include displaced populations and cover education services at all levels, from early childhood education to tertiary and adult education.”[291]

The World Bank approved two large loans to benefit education for Bangladeshi children in 2017. Due to the Bangladesh government’s restrictions, the “registered” Rohingya refugee children who were already in Bangladesh, as well as the children who fled after August 2017, will not benefit from a $700 million World Bank loan, repayable at 0 percent interest over 38 years, to establish learning centers for 1 million out-of-school Bangladeshi children and provide them with a pathway to formal primary education.[292] Because Bangladesh bars Rohingya children from attending public or private secondary schools, they will also be excluded from a “Program for Results” project supported with $510 million in World Bank funding, intended to benefit 13 million Bangladeshi secondary-school students.[293] The World Bank’s “inclusion” policy does not apply to these loans, since they were approved before it came into effect on October 1, 2018.[294] Overall, one analysis found that the World Bank “has not publicly pushed for the Government [of Bangladesh] to improve its policies that would enable refugees to participate in formal, accredited schooling or to find work.”[295]

Another important multilateral donor supporting education is the Global Partnership for Education. The right to education is one of the pillars of the partnership’s Charter.[296] According to the Charter, governments that receive funding from the partnership are “responsible for the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of ESPs [education sector plans] that promote equitable access to quality education for all” (3.2.2), while “development partners” are responsible to help “ensure the sector plan is evidence-based, of good quality, and focused on equity, efficiency and learning outcomes” (3.3.3.c). In September 2018, the partnership noted “the need to ensure that interventions fulfil the … education rights of [Rohingya] refugee children and youth” in Bangladesh, but characterized these as “longer-term education rights” that were would require “more time and negotiation amid continuously evolving circumstances and negotiations between Myanmar and Bangladesh,” especially “given high sensitivities” around “curriculum and language.”[297] The partnership’s Secretariat recommended the approval of an $8.3 million grant to address Rohingya children’s “urgent needs” because the grant proposal was based on the education cluster’s emergency assessment, and contained an operational plan, and partnership’s funds would not displace other funding.[298] These criteria make no reference to the right to education.

Donors cannot logically justify funding humanitarian NGOs and agencies to provide education for Rohingya children on the basis of progressive implementation by the government of Bangladesh when the government is fully denying those same children’s immediate right to primary education. In addition, basic humanitarian standards on education explicitly reject the distinction between immediate and long-term access. UNHCR’s “Emergency standard” for education provides that “refugee children and youth are able to participate in accredited national education systems and programmes under similar conditions to local children.” On different issues, UNHCR sometimes distinguishes an “emergency standard” from a “longer-term standard,” but with regards to education, “the same standards apply to long term and emergency situations.”[299]

The World Bank, as well as UNICEF, UNHCR, Education Cannot Wait, and other funders and humanitarian actors, have endorsed the “Education Charter for Action,” which restates their commitments under the Global Compact for Refugees to “provide quality primary and secondary education in safe learning environments for all refugee children, and to do so within a few months of the initial displacement,” and to “promote tertiary education, skills training and vocational education,” and in this regard, “to turn our promises into tangible changes for refugees; in long-term plans that we invest in, implement and review in collaboration with host countries.”[300] The World Bank stated that as part of its fulfillment of these commitments, it is investing in education in Bangladesh and will help the government “develop strategic education sector plans that include displaced populations and cover education services at all levels, from early childhood education to tertiary and adult education.”[301]

Donors should pressure the government of Bangladesh to permit formal, certified, quality education to refugee children, regardless of their status, whether inside or outside of the camps. In order to do so, donors first need to squarely acknowledge that Bangladesh’s restrictions violate the right to education. Donors should affirm that the only education that Rohingya are allowed to access in the camps, the GIEP, does not meet their own minimum standards for education in emergencies, or the Bangladesh government’s obligation to fulfill the right to education without discrimination and to ensure all children access compulsory quality primary education, that secondary education is accessible and available, regardless of the child’s refugee or residency status.

III. Legal Standards

The government of Bangladesh, by impeding international efforts to provide Rohingya children with a quality education, is violating their right to education.

Education Law and Policy in Bangladesh

Bangladesh’s Constitution provides that “fundamental human rights and freedoms and respect for the dignity and worth of the human person shall be guaranteed,” and requires the establishment of “a uniform, mass-oriented and universal system of education and extending free and compulsory education to all children.”[302] “Education is key to a nation’s development … education is the backbone of the nation,” wrote Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the preface to the country’s 2010 National Education Policy.[303]

Despite the words of its constitution, the government interprets the right to education as a right only of Bangladeshi nationals. Bangladesh cited the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child when it updated and revised the National Child Policy in 2011. However, while the revised policy provides for universal education (article 6.5), child protection (6.7), birth registration (6.10), a role for NGOs in policy making and implementation (11), and other measures, it is “applicable to all children – the citizen[s] of Bangladesh without any discrimination” (art. 3).[304] Bangladesh’s “Core Documents” submitted to the UN in April 2015 state that its national objectives include eliminating illiteracy and addressing dropouts to achieve universal enrollment in upper secondary school (12th class) by 2021, with gender parity.[305]

International legal standards

Bangladesh is a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which affirms a child’s right to education, and to the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers.[306] In a General Comment issued jointly with the UN Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child asserted that, irrespective of their status, all children shall have full access to education at all levels on the basis of equality with nationals of the country in which they are living.[307] The non-discrimination principle of the CRC means that asylum seekers and refugee children are entitled to all rights in the convention, including access to “quality and inclusive” education.[308]

In June 2009, the Committee on the Rights of the Child called on Bangladesh to “allow access to education for Rohingya children residing in the refugee camps as well as education and birth registration for Rohingya children not registered as refugees … and fully implement existing High Court Orders that would facilitate equal enjoyment of their rights.”[309] In October 2015, the Committee reiterated its concern about “the lack of education for refugee children.”[310]

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, concluding its review of Bangladesh in March 2011, stated that it was “deeply concerned” that Rohingya were denied legal status and access to education and other basic services outside the camps.[311] The committee reiterated its concern at the lack of access to education for Rohingya girls in its November 2016 review.[312] The Committee issued a General Recommendation in 2017 that states should provide “universal, free and compulsory education from pre-school up to the secondary level regardless of socio-economic status for citizens of the state as well as for girls and women with migrant and refugee status.”[313]

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) states that governments must recognize the right of everyone to education, that shall enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society, including that primary education shall be compulsory and free to all.[314] Children with disabilities and older children should have equal access to education. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the independent expert committee that provides authoritative guidance on the ICESCR, has observed that “[t]he obligation to provide primary education for all is an immediate duty of all States parties.”[315] In addition, states are obligated to provide everyone access to public educational institutions on a non-discriminatory basis.[316] The committee reaffirmed, in line with the non-discrimination requirements in article 2, that nationality is not a legitimate ground upon which to deny access to a right, including a child’s right to education.[317] The committee specifically outlined within that requirement the right of asylum seekers and refugees to education.[318]

While the committee acknowledged the ICESCR may provide developing countries like Bangladesh an exception to providing education to non-nationals, it affirmed that each state should recognize the right of each child to education regardless of their status.[319] This “progressive realization” of the right to education does not apply to Bangladesh’s denial of education to Rohingya refugee children. Bangladesh is obliged to ensure immediate access to education for these children, including its provision through internationally-funded humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations. In April 2018, the committee stated it was “deeply concerned” that Bangladesh restricts Rohingya refugees’ movement outside of the camps to access education and other basic services.[320]

Bangladesh endorsed the Global Compact on Refugees at the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, 2018, welcoming it as “a paradigm shift in establishing migration as a development phenomenon” and stating that “Bangladesh stands ready to work with all interested parties” for its implementation.[321] However, Bangladesh’s prohibition on the integration of Rohingya refugee children in formal education, more than two years after they arrived and without any prospect of safe or voluntary return, flouts the Global Compact’s provisions:

States and relevant stakeholders will contribute resources and expertise to expand and enhance the quality and inclusiveness of national education systems to facilitate access by refugee and host community children (both boys and girls), adolescents and youth to primary, secondary and tertiary education. More direct financial support and special efforts will be mobilized to minimize the time refugee boys and girls spend out of education, ideally a maximum of three months after arrival.[322]

Bangladesh is a party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which  obliges states to “ensure the full enjoyment by children with disabilities of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children,” (art 7.1) to “ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities” in humanitarian emergencies, (art 11) and to ensure that “children with disabilities can access an inclusive, quality and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live” (art 24.2.b.).[323]

Acknowledgments

Research for this report was conducted by Bill Van Esveld, senior researcher in the Children’s Rights Division, Zama Neff, executive director, and by an assistant researcher in the Asia Division at Human Rights Watch. Susan Raqib, former senior associate, and Stefan Walzer-Goldfeld, former intern, provided desk research. The report was reviewed by Zama Neff; Elin Martinez, senior children’s rights researcher; Bill Frelick, director of the Refugee Rights program; and by researchers and Meenakshi Ganguly, deputy director, in the Asia Division. Tom Porteous, deputy program director, provided review. Clive Baldwin, senior legal adviser, provided legal review. Alex Firth, associate, and Fitzroy Hepkins, production manager, provided production assistance.

Human Rights Watch wishes to thank all the people who helped make this report possible by meeting with us and sharing information on education for children in Cox’s Bazar district: Rohingya children and their families, refugee teachers at self-organized schools in the camps, Bangladeshi non-governmental organizations working on behalf of Rohingya and Bangladeshi children, teachers and students at Bangladeshi schools, and staff at international aid organizations and UN agencies.

 

 

[1] In South Asia, the data shows an 8.1 percent increase per year of education. George Psacharopoulos, Harry Antony Patrinos, “Returns to Investment in Education: A Decennial Review of the Global Literature,” World Bank Group, April 2018,

p. 10. http://datatopics.worldbank.org/education/files/GlobalAchievement/Return... (accessed July 23, 2019).

[2] International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, The Learning Generation, May 2018, p. 14, https://report.educationcommission.org/download/891/ (accessed June 1, 2019).

[3] Even before the refugee arrivals since August 2017, Bangladesh had proposed relocating Rohingya refugees from Cox’s Bazar to different islands in the Bay of Bengal. See, e.g., “Bangladesh plans to move refugees to island in the south,” Agence France-Presse, May 28, 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/28/bangladesh-plans-to-move-rohingya-refugees-to-island-in-the-south (accessed July 22, 2019).

[4] Only Rohingya who arrived before mid-1992, and their children, have been registered as refugees. Bangladesh has not ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol and does not recognize the vast majority of Rohingya as refugees, but refers to them as “Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals.”

[5] Human Rights Watch, Burmese Refugees in Bangladesh: Still No Durable Solution, May 2000, https://www.hrw.org/reports/2000/burma/burm005-01.htm, Chapter 2.

[6] UNHCR, States of Denial: A review of UNHCR’s response to the protracted situation of stateless Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, December 2011, p.1, https://www.unhcr.org/4ee754c19.pdf (accessed June 2, 2019); U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Burma [Myanmar]: Information on the situation of Rohingyas, March 28, 2001, https://www.refworld.org/docid/3deccd7a4.html (accessed November 1, 2019).

[7] Human Rights Watch, Burmese Refugees in Bangladesh; and Human Rights Watch, Living in Limbo: Burmese Rohingyas in Malaysia, August 2000, https://www.hrw.org/reports/2000/malaysia/maybr008-01.htm. Chapter 3.

[8] G.E. Harvey, History of Burma: From the Earliest Times to 10 March 1824 The Beginning of the English Conquest (London: Longmans, Green and Co.), 1925, p. 282; Tim Steel, “The legacy of Hiram Cox,” Dhaka Tribune, February 19, 2016, https://www.dhakatribune.com/uncategorized/2016/02/19/the-legacy-of-hira... (accessed June 1, 2019).

[9] Maung Htin Aung, A History of Burma (New York and London: Columbia University Press), 1967, p. 206.

[10] UNHCR, “Submission by UNHCR for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ compilation report: Universal Periodic Review, Bangladesh,” p.1, October 2012, https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/508640242.pdf (accessed June 2, 2019).

[11] Jeff Crisp, “’Primitive People’: The untold story of UNHCR’s Historical Engagement with Rohingya Refugees,” October 2018, Humanitarian Practice Network / Overseas Development Institute, https://odihpn.org/magazine/primitive-people-the-untold-story-of-unhcrs-historical-engagement-with-rohingya-refugees/ (accessed June 2, 2019). See also Human Rights Watch, Bangladesh is Not My Country: Stateless Rohingya Refugees Expelled from Myanmar, August 2018, p. 13, https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/bangladesh0818_web2.pdf.

[12]Bangladesh suspended third-country resettlement of Rohingya refugees in 2010. UNHCR, “Submission by UNHCR for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ compilation report: Universal Periodic Review, Bangladesh,” p.1, October 2012, https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/508640242.pdf (accessed June 2, 2019).

[13]UNHCR, “Submission by UNHCR for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ compilation report: Universal Periodic Review, Bangladesh,” p.1, October 2012, https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/508640242.pdf (accessed June 2, 2019).

[14] Ibid., UNICEF, “Rohingya crisis,” https://www.unicef.org/emergencies/rohingya-crisis (accessed November 1, 2019). 

[15] Human Rights Watch, Bangladesh is Not My Country: Stateless Rohingya Refugees Expelled from Myanmar, August 2018, p. 13.

[16] 2019 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis, January-December, p. 10.

[17] UNHCR, Bangladesh: Analysis of Gaps in the Protection of Rohingya Refugees, May 2007, p. 1, https://www.unhcr.org/46fa1af32.pdf (accessed June 2, 2019). 

[18] UNHCR, Bangladesh: Analysis of Gaps in the Protection of Rohingya Refugees, May 2007, p. 1.

[19] The poverty rate was 23 percent in Cox’s Bazar before refugee influx, while the literacy rate was 60 percent. World Bank, Bangladesh Development Update: Building on Resilience, April 2018, p.28, http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/135671531755711230/text/Bangla... (accessed November 1, 2019); UNDP, Impacts of the Rohingya Refugee Influx on Host Communities, November 2018, p. 49,https://www.undp.org/content/dam/bangladesh/docs/Publications/Pub-2019/Impacts%20of%20the%20Rohingya%20Refigee%20Influx%20on%20Host%20Communities.pdf

(accessed November 1, 2019). 

[20] 2019 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis, January-December, pp. 28, 33, 35, 39.

[21] Bruno Stagno-Ugarte, “The Other Refugee Crisis: The Plight of Bangladesh’s Migrants,” Foreign Affairs, October 21, 2015, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/south-asia/2015-10-21/other-refugee-crisis (accessed August 25, 2019).

[22] “Bay of Bengal people smuggling doubles in 2015: UNHCR,” Reuters, May 8, 2015, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-thailand-rohingya-unhcr/bay-of-bengal... (accessed June 2, 2019); Thomas Fuller and Joe Cochrane, “Rohingya Migrants from Myanmar, Shunned by Malaysia, Are Spotted Adrift in Andaman Sea,” New York Times, May 15, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/15/world/asia/burmese-rohingya-banglades... (accessed August 25, 2019).

[23] “Southeast Asia: Accounts from Rohingya Boat People,” Human Rights Watch, May 27, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/05/27/southeast-asia-accounts-rohingya-boat-people.

[24] UN OCHA, “Myanmar Humanitarian Brief,” September 2018, p. 2, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/OCHA%20Myanmar... (accessed July 2, 2019)

[25] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a former co-lead of the Cox’s Bazar education sector, September 25, 2018.

[26] Amnesty International, “Caged Without a Roof”: Apartheid in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, p. 69, https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/ASA1674842017ENGLISH.PDF (accessed June 2, 2019).

[27] The national average student–teacher ratio at primary schools is 28 to 1, 25 percent of children drop out of primary school, and literacy rates are around 93 percent. UNDP, 2016 Human Development Report, Table 9, “Educational Achievements,” p. 232, http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/2016_human_development_report.pdf (accessed June 1, 2019).

[28] Center for Diversity and National Harmony, Rakhine State Needs Assessment, September 2015, p. 95, https://www.themimu.info/sites/themimu.info/files/documents/Report_Rakhi... (accessed June 13, 2019).

[29] Cox’s Bazar Education Sector, Joint Education Needs Assessment: Rohingya Refugee in Cox’s Bazar, p. 17, https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/sites/www.humanitarianresponse.info/files/documents/files/cxb_jena_assessment_report-180607.pdf; Internews, Information Needs Assessment Cox’s Bazar – Bangladesh, November 2018, p. 17, https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/sites/www.humanitarianresponse.inf...; International Rescue Committee, Gender-Based Violence Among Displaced Communities in Sittwe Township, Rakhine State, 2016, p. 17, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/IRC%20GBV%20KAP%202016.pdf (accessed June 2, 2019).

[30] Joint Education Sector Needs Assessment, North Rakhine State, Myanmar, November 2015, p. 17.

[31] Internews, Information Needs Assessment Cox’s Bazar – Bangladesh, November 2018, p. 15.

[32] Report of the detailed findings of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, September 17, 2018, A/HRC/39/CRP.2, p. 133, https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/FFM-Myanmar/A_HRC_39_... (accessed July 22, 2019).

[33] Joint Education Sector Needs Assessment, North Rakhine State, Myanmar, November 2015, p. 18.

[34] Id.

[35] Amnesty International, “Caged Without A Roof”: Apartheid in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, p. 69, https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/ASA1674842017ENGLISH.PDF (accessed July 29, 2019).

[36] UNHCR, Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2017, p. 25, https://www.unhcr.org/5b27be547.pdf (accessed July 21, 2019).

[37] Joint Education Sector Needs Assessment, North Rakhine State, Myanmar, November 2015, pp. 9, 25.

[38] Report of the detailed findings of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, September 17, 2018, A/HRC/39/CRP.2, p. 134.

[39] UNICEF, “Lives on Hold: Making Sure No Child is Left Behind in Myanmar,” May 2017, p. 5, https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/UNICEF_Lives_on_Hold_Myanmar.pdf; Human Rights Watch, “Myanmar: Events of 2018,” World Report 2018, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/burma.

[40] Burma Task Force UK, “New Travel Restrictions Placed on the Rohingya,” April 27, 2016, https://www.burmataskforce.org/content/new-travel-restrictions-placed-ro... (accessed June 10, 2019).

[41] Al Jazeera, “Myanmar’s Rohingya Deprived of Education,” August 4, 2014, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/08/myanmar-rohingya-depr... (accessed June 1, 2019).

[42] Human Rights Watch interview with Royes, learning center instructor, Cox’s Bazar, February 5, 2019.

[43] Human Rights Watch interview, Nur Bashar, Cox’s Bazar, February 15, 2019.

[44] Center for Diversity and National Harmony, Rakhine State Needs Assessment, September 2015, p. 96; Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, The Right to Education Denied for Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh, p. 5, http://burmacampaign.org.uk/media/The-Right-to-Education-Denied-for-Rohi... (accessed June 3, 2019); Amnesty International, “Caged Without a Roof”: Apartheid in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, November 21, 2017.

[45] Human Rights Watch interview with Jamin, learning center instructor, Cox’s Bazar, February 9, 2019.

[46] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohamad M., Cox’s Bazar, February 10, 2019.

[47] Human Rights Watch group interview with Mohamed Arab and five other children, Cox’s Bazar, February 10, 2019.

[48] Dhaka Tribune, “Rohingya Children Allegedly Facing Racial Segregation in Rakhine Schools,” February 20, 2018, https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/nation/2018/02/20/rakhine-rohing... (accessed June 3, 2019).

[49] Joint Education Sector Needs Assessment, North Rakhine State, Myanmar, November 2015, p. 30; Mohammed Mohiyuddin Mohammed Sulaiman, “Islamic education in Myanmar: a case study,” chapter 10, in Dictatorship, Disorder and Decline in Myanmar, ed. Trevor Wilson, Monique Skidmore, 2008, available at http://press-files.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/p102401/mobile/index.html (accessed June 4, 2019); “Joint Education Sector Needs Assessment, North Rakhine State, Myanmar,” November 2015, p. 27.

[50] Voice of America, “Mosques, Madrasas to be Razed in Myanmar’s Rakhine State,” September 21, 2016, https://www.voanews.com/a/mosques-madrasas-to-be-razed-in-myanmar-rakhin... (accessed June 2, 2019).

[51] Human Rights Watch group interview with Mohamed Azaz and five other children, Cox’s Bazar, February 10, 2019.

[52] Al Jazeera, “Myanmar’s Rohingya Deprived of Education,” August 4, 2014, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/08/myanmar-rohingya-deprived-education-201484105134827695.html

[53] Human Rights Watch interview with, and written note received from, Mohamad Sufire, Cox’s Bazar, February 12, 2019.

[54] Amnesty International, “Caged Without a Roof”: Apartheid in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, 2018, p. 66, https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/ASA1674842017ENGLISH.PDF;  Human Rights Watch interview with Mohamed Hanim, Cox’s Bazar, February 9, 2019.

[55] PRIO, We Must Prevent a Lost Generation: Community-Led Education in Rohingya Camps, July 10, 2019, p. 18, https://www.prio.org/Publications/Publication/?x=11387 (accessed July 26, 2019).

[56] Human Rights Watch interviews with Royes and Mohamed Hanim, Cox’s Bazar, February 5 and 9, 2019.

[57] See, e.g., “Rohingya Refugees: $950 million needed in next 10 months,” The Daily Star, March 10, 2018, https://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/rohingya-refugees-950m-needed-nex... (accessed July 23, 2019); 2019 Joint Response Plan for Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis, p. 35; Md. Sahada Hossain, “Regarding to Allocate 25% of total budget in FD-7 for Host Communities of Cox’s Bazar,” Director General, NGO Bureau, Office of the Prime Minister, July 15, 2019, on file with Human Rights Watch.

[58] Letter to Human Rights Watch from UNICEF Bangladesh, December 2, 2019.

[59] World Bank, “Additional Financing for Reaching Out of School Children II,” September 5, 2018, p. 9, http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/434911537587044478/pdf/Banglad...

[60] Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis, March-December 2018, p. 59, https://www.unocha.org/sites/unocha/files/JRP for Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis 2018.PDF (accessed May 16, 2019).

[61] Bangladesh National Education Policy, p. 6, https://reliefweb.int/report/bangladesh/national-education-policy-2010-enbn (accessed May 11, 2019).

[62] “Upazila Education Performance Profile Based on Annual Primary School Census 2015,” compiled from Bangladeshi government statistics by an international NGO working; Excel sheet data on file with Human Rights Watch.

[63] Human Rights Watch interviews, vice-principals and teachers, at public and semi-public elementary and secondary schools, Ukhiya, February 15 and 16, 2019.

[64] Human Rights Watch interview with local NGO director, Cox’s Bazar, February 8, 2019.

[65] Xchange, “The Rohingya Amongst Us”: Bangladeshi perspectives on the Rohingya crisis survey, August 28, 2018, http://xchange.org/bangladeshi-perspectives-on-the-rohingya-crisis-survey/ (accessed July 10, 2019).

[66] World Bank, “Additional Financing for Reaching Out of School Children II,” September 5, 2018, p. 10.

[67] World Bank, “Additional Financing for Reaching Out of School Children II,” September 5, 2018, p. 10.

[68] Human Rights Watch interview, teacher, Kashemia High School, Balukhali, Cox’s Bazar, February 18, 2019. Her rent doubled from 8,000 to 15,000 taka.

[69] Human Rights Watch interview, assistant head teacher, Kashemia High School, Balukhali, Cox’s Bazar, February 18, 2019.

[70] UNICEF notes that Rohingya who fled since August 2017 “joined 300,000 people already in Bangladesh from previous waves of displacement.” UNICEF, “Rohingya Crisis,” https://www.unicef.org/emergencies/rohingya-crisis (accessed September 4, 2019). UNHCR counted 913,080 Rohingya refugees, of whom 55 percent are under 18 years old, and 37 percent are between the ages of 5 and 17, as of August 31, 2019. UNHCR, “Rohingya Refugee Response – Bangladesh: Population Factsheet,” https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/71171 (accessed August 1, 2019).

[71] Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stated that Bangladesh was hosting 1.1 million Rohingya in her remarks to the U.N. General Assembly on September 27, 2018. 73rd UN General Assembly, “Bangladesh: H.E. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,” September 27, 2018, https://gadebate.un.org/en/73/bangladesh (accessed September 4, 2019). The humanitarian education sector’s estimates of the number of school-age children seem to have shifted downward since June 2018, when an education needs assessment reported that “over 530,000” refugee children ages 3 to 17 were “in immediate need of education in emergency services.” In December 2018, the education sector reported that its “target” population in the 3-14 age group was 298,000 children. Joint Education Sector Needs Assessment, June 1, 2018, p. 8, https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/bangladesh/document/... (accessed July 25, 2019). Cox’s Bazar 5W Data - Education Sector, December 31, 2018, XLS file available at https://data.humdata.org/dataset/cox-s-bazar-5w-data-education-sector (accessed August 1, 2019).

[72] Cox’s Bazar Education Sector Meeting, “Education Sector: Dashboard and 5W Analysis as of July 28, 2019.”

[73] In December 2018, education sector members noted that although each learning center counted 35-40 students, “there are much less [who attend] most of the time,” and pledged to improve attendance monitoring including through “independent spot checks.” Cox’s Bazar Education Sector Roundtable, December 19, 2018 (updated April 3, 2019), p. 6,

 https://www.dropbox.com/sh/d9kgms6vu4ma10s/AABCh9I4SLSTkWMI-YFruS1Xa/RRR... (accessed July 17, 2019).

[74] Bangladesh, Leaving No One Behind: Education for girls and boys of Rohingya refugees and host communities in Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Funding Proposal to the Global Partnership for Education, [uploaded on November 5, 2018], p. 5, https://www.globalpartnership.org/sites/default/files/20180813_gpe_proposal_rohingya_final.pdf (accessed July 17, 2019).

[75] The coordinating body, called the Education Local Consultative Group (ELCG), is co-chaired by the Education Ministry of Public and Mass Education and USAID, but as of September 2018 the education ministry was “seldom present to chair the meetings, nor have other government bodies participated in recent years.” Global Partnership for Education, Grants and Performance Committee Meeting, September 17, 2018, GPC/2018/09 DOC 02, Annex 2, p. 4.

[76] Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Statement by Hon’ble State Minister for Foreign Affairs as Chief Guest of the Session on ‘Inclusive Humanitarian Actions in Disasters and Protracted Crisis’ at the 2nd International Conference on Disability & Disaster Risk Management,” May 17, 2018, https://mofa.gov.bd/site/page/977a3c75-c579-47e5-9269-4fed860d5b49 (accessed July 24, 2019); Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, Twenty-sixth session, Replies of Bangladesh to the list of issues, March 17, 2017.

[77] Global Partnership for Education, Grants and Performance Committee Meeting, September 17, 2018, GPC/2018/09 DOC 02, “Annex 2: Quality Assurance Review – Phase 3,” p. 3,

https://www.globalpartnership.org/sites/default/files/gpc-2018-09-doc_02... (accessed July 26, 2019).

[78] UNICEF, Evaluation of UNICEF’s Response to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis in Bangladesh, Vol. 1, November 2018, p. 41, https://www.unicef.org/evaldatabase/files/UNICEF-Rohingya_Response_Evalu...

 (accessed July 27, 2019). The education sector cites a “Ministry of Foreign Affairs directive on Dec. 29th 2017” as the basis for restricting education to “informal” instruction in “the basics of English, Burmese, General Knowledge, Math and Science. Cox’s Bazar Education Sector, “Guidance Note: Education Sector Standards for Rohingya Refugee Response,” May 1, 2018, p. 3, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/guidance_note_for_education_sector_standards_v_1.00.pdf (accessed July 15, 2018).

[79] Joint Response Plan for Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis, March-December 2018, p. 19.

[80] UNHCR, Independent assessment of UNHCR’s emergency response to the Rohingya refugee influx in Bangladesh, August 2017- September 2018, December 2018, p. 81, https://www.unhcr.org/5c811b464.pdf (accessed July 23, 2019).

[81] Guidelines for Informal Education Program (GIEP) for Children of Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals (FDMN) in Bangladesh, May 15, 2019, pp. 1-2,

https://www.globalpartnership.org/sites/default/files/2019-05-bangladesh... (accessed July 17, 2019).

[82] Human Rights Watch interview, senior humanitarian agency official, Cox’s Bazar, February 16, 2019.

[83] Human Rights Watch interview with Abul Kalam, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, Cox’s Bazar, February 18, 2019.

[84] “Myanmar/Bangladesh: Halt Rohingya Returns,” Human Rights Watch news release, August 20, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/08/20/myanmar/bangladesh-halt-rohingya-ret....

[85] Inter-Agency Network on Education in Emergencies, “Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery,” 2012, p. 78, https://inee.org/system/files/resources/INEE_Minimum_Standards_Handbook_2010%28HSP%29_EN.pdf (accessed September 4, 2019).

[86] Human Rights Watch, “Bangladesh: Rohingya Refugee Students Expelled,” April 1, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/04/01/bangladesh-rohingya-refugee-students....

[87] Government of Bangladesh, “Leaving No One Behind: Education for girls and boys of Rohingya refugees and host communities in Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Funding Proposal to the Global Partnership for Education,” p. 9, [uploaded on] November 5, 2018, https://www.globalpartnership.org/sites/default/files/20180813_gpe_propo... (accessed July 17, 2019).

[88] Cox’s Bazar Education Sector, “Joint Education Needs Assessment: Rohingya Refugee in Cox’s Bazar,” June 2018, p. 27, https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/sites/www.humanitarianresponse.inf... (accessed June 2, 2019).

[89] Ibid.

[90] Human Rights Watch, “Bangladesh: Rohingya Refugee Students Expelled,” April 1, 2019.

[91] Ibid.

[92] Human Rights Watch interview, district education official, Cox’s Bazar, February 17, 2019.

[93] Human Rights Watch interview, senior humanitarian agency official, Cox’s Bazar, February 17, 2019.

[94] Human Rights Watch interview with Royes Uddin, learning center instructor, Cox’s Bazar, February 5, 2019.

[95] Human Rights Watch interviews with Azida, Cox’s Bazar, February 14, 2019.

[96] Human Rights Watch interview with Royes Uddin, learning center instructor, Cox’s Bazar, February 5, 2019.

[97] Human Rights Watch group interviews with Nur Kamal, Cox’s Bazar, February 15, 2019.

[98] Human Rights Watch group interviews with 12 children, Cox’s Bazar, February 12, 2019.

[99] Human Rights Watch group interviews with Mohamad Yasin, Cox’s Bazar, February 15, 2019.

[100] “Shut out from Bangladesh schools, Rohingya turn to madrassas,” AFP, July 19, 2019, https://www.malaymail.com/news/life/2019/06/18/shut-out-from-bangladesh-schools-rohingyas-turn-to-madrassas/1763246 (accessed September 12, 2019).

[101] Joint Education Needs Assessment, Rohingya Refugees in Cox’s Bazar, June 1, 2018, p. 18, https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/sites/www.humanitarianresponse.inf... (accessed June 2, 2019).

[102] Human Rights Watch interview, Osman O. (a pseudonym), instructor at learning center, camp location withheld, Cox’s Bazar, February 7, 2019.

[103] Human Rights Watch interviews with Azida, Cox’s Bazar, February 14, 2019.

[104] Human Rights Watch interview with Esha Ahmed, Cox’s Bazar, February 10, 2019.

[105] Human Rights Watch interview with Faisal, Cox’s Bazar, February 6, 2019.

[106] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohamad Amin, Cox’s Bazar, February 5, 2019.

[107] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohamad Zohar, Cox’s Bazar, February 10, 2019.

[108] Human Rights Watch interview with Rumana Akhter, Cox’s Bazar, February 7, 2019.

[109] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammad Ilias and Shahina Akhter at a learning center in the Cox’s Bazar camps, February 7, 2019.

[110] Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis, March-December 2018, p. 60, https://www.unocha.org/sites/unocha/files/JRP for Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis 2018.PDF (accessed May 16, 2019); information about UN and Myanmar officials’ meetings is from an email to Human Rights Watch from an INGO, August 28, 2019.

[111] UNICEF, Beyond Survival: Rohingya Refugee Children in Bangladesh Want to Learn, August 2019, p. 13, https://www.unicef.org/bangladesh/media/2536/file/UNICEF%20Advocacy%20Alert%202019.pdf (accessed November 20, 2019).

[112] UNICEF, Evaluation of UNICEF’s Response to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis in Bangladesh, Vol. 1, November 2018, pp. 41-42.

[113] UNICEF, Beyond Survival: Rohingya Refugee Children in Bangladesh Want to Learn, p. 11.

[114] See, e.g., Inter-Agency Network on Education in Emergencies, “Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery,” 2012, p. 78, https://inee.org/system/files/resources/INEE_Minimum_Standards_Handbook_2010%28HSP%29_EN.pdf (accessed September 4, 2019).

[115] Human Rights Watch interview, senior humanitarian agency official, Cox’s Bazar, February 16, 2019.

[116] 2019 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Emergency, January-December, p. 35.

[117] The first four levels are meant to be equivalent to pre-primary through grade 8. UNICEF, “Humanitarian Action for Children: Bangladesh,” January 2019, p. 3, https://www.unicef.org/appeals/files/2019-HAC-Bangladesh(2).pdf (accessed June 3, 2019).

[118] Human Rights Watch interviews, senior humanitarian agency official, February 16, 2019; Bangladeshi INGO education specialist, Cox’s Bazar, February 18, 2019.

[119] In Myanmar, primary education in classes 1 through 3 lasted from 7 to 10:30 a.m., according to two Rohingya refugees who were formerly teachers in government schools that ran on multiple “shifts” in different villages in Rakhine state. Human Rights Watch interviews in Cox’s Bazar with Dil Mohamed, February 11, and Salah Uddin, February 14, 2019.

[120] Cox’s Bazar Education Sector, “Contact hours / Shift Planning Proposal,” [no date], p.3, https://www.dropbox.com/sh/rjl9tyifhvlra41/AACezaVfWgk1t7uG8iyjv6fra?dl=0&preview=Contact+time+and+shift+planining+guide+_Eng.pdf (accessed July 15, 2019).

[121] Letter from UNICEF Bangladesh to Human Rights Watch, December 1, 2019.

[122] Human Rights Watch interviews, staff at Kashemia High School, Balukhali, Cox’s Bazar, February 14 and 15, 2019.

[123] At the time of the interviews, in February 2019, the GIEP was still referred to as the Learning Competency Framework and Approach (LCFA).

[124] Human Rights Watch interview, international NGO education official, Cox’s Bazar, February 18, 2019.

[125] Human Rights Watch interview, international NGO official, Cox’s Bazar, February 19, 2019.

[126] Cox’s Bazar Education Sector Meeting Notes, April 11, 2018.

[127] UNHCR, “Education emergency standard,” https://emergency.unhcr.org/entry/53852/education-emergency-standard, accessed September 3, 2019. Bullet points in original.

[128] ISCG Cox’s Bazar, Situation Report Rohingya Refugee Crisis, April 2019 p. 4, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/sitrep_april_2... (accessed July 25, 2019).

[129] Human Rights Watch interview, senior humanitarian agency official, Cox’s Bazar, February 16, 2019.

[130] Human Rights Watch interview, international NGO official, Cox’s Bazar, February 19, 2019.

[131] Human Rights Watch telephone interview, former education sector member, September 25, 2018.

[132] Cox’s Bazar Education Sector Meeting Notes, April 11, 2018.

[133] UNICEF, Evaluation of UNICEF’s Response to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis in Bangladesh, Vol. 1, November 2018, pp. 41-42.

[134] Human Rights Watch telephone interview, former education sector member, September 25, 2018.

[135] UNICEF, Evaluation of UNICEF’s Response to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis in Bangladesh, Vol. 1, November 2018, pp. 41-42.

[136] Human Rights Watch interview, international NGO official, Cox’s Bazar, February 19, 2019.

[137] 2019 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Emergency, January-December, p. 36.

[138] Human Rights Watch interviews with instructors at learning centers, Cox’s Bazar, February 5-7, 2019.

[139] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohamad Zohar, Cox’s Bazar, February 10, 2019.

[140] Human Rights Watch interviews with Rohingya children, Cox’s Bazar, February 8-15, 2019.

[141] UNHCR, “Education emergency standard,” https://emergency.unhcr.org/entry/53852/education-emergency-standard, accessed September 3, 2019. Bullet points in original.

[142] Inter-Agency Network on Education in Emergencies, “Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery,” 2012, p. 22, https://inee.org/system/files/resources/INEE_Minimum_Standards_Handbook_2010%28HSP%29_EN.pdf (accessed September 4, 2019).

[143] Letter to Human Rights Watch from UNICEF Bangladesh, December 2, 2019. Separately, as of mid-2019, “the education sector has facilitated the organization of 3,297 trainings for School and Community Education Committees (with 50% female participation) on learning facility / school management, disaster risk reduction, and participatory engagement of the community.” Joint Response Plan for Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis: 2019 Mid-Term Review, p. 41, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/2019_jrp_mid_t... (accessed November 20, 2019).

[144] Human Rights Watch telephone interview, international NGO education specialist, September 25, 2018.

[145] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohamed Ayas, Cox’s Bazar, February 9, 2019.

[146] Human Rights Watch interview with Mujibur Rahman, Cox’s Bazar, February 9, 2019.

[147] Human Rights Watch interviews with Rohingya educators, Cox’s Bazar, February 9, 11, 12, 14, 15, 2019.

[148] Turkey accredited a modified version of the Syrian curriculum for use in schools set up by Syrian teachers for refugee children, without Syrian government authorization. Human Rights Watch, “Education for Syrian Refugee Children: What Donors and Host Countries Should Do,” September 16, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/09/16/education-syrian-refugee-children-wh....

[149] “Refugee Education Integration Review,” December 2017, USAID and World Education Inc., pp. 35, 60, https://worlded.org/WEIInternet/inc/common/_download_pub.cfm?id=19335&lid=3, accessed October, 22, 2019.

[150] Human Rights Watch interview, international NGO education official, Cox’s Bazar, February 20, 2019.

[151] Human Rights Watch interview, international NGO education official, Cox’s Bazar, February 20, 2019.

[152] Inter-Agency Network on Education in Emergencies, “Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery,” 2012, p. 76, https://inee.org/system/files/resources/INEE_Minimum_Standards_Handbook_2010%28HSP%29_EN.pdf (accessed September 4, 2019).

[153] In Bangladesh, national examinations are required for acceptance to secondary school (from class 9 to 10), upper secondary school (class 11 and 12), and a secondary school matriculation certification exam is required for enrollment in university.

[154] Abul Kalam was removed from his position as RRRC by the government on August 25, 2019, shortly after some Bangladeshi media outlets and political figures criticized authorities for permitting Rohingya refugees to hold a large, peaceful demonstration in the Cox’s Bazar camps to commemorate their forced displacement, and because no Rohingya were returned to Myanmar under a plan to encourage voluntary repatriations. Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan, “RRRC Kalam transferred, made OSD,” Dhaka Tribune, September 2, 2019, https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/nation/2019/09/02/mahbub-alam-made-new-rrrc (accessed September 17, 2019).

[155] Human Rights Watch interview, Abul Kalam, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, Cox’s Bazar, February 18, 2019.

[156] Human Rights Watch interview, international NGO education official [BRAC], Cox’s Bazar, February 18, 2019.

[157] World Bank, “World Bank Provides $700 Million to Improve Primary Education in Bangladesh,” June 14, 2018, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2018/06/14/world-bank-pr... (accessed July 28, 2019).

[158] Human Rights Watch interview, international NGO education official, Cox’s Bazar, February 14, 2019.

[159] Human Rights Watch interview with, and written note received from Atif A., Cox’s Bazar, February 12, 2019.

[160] Human Rights Watch interview, Osman O. (a pseudonym), instructor at learning center in camp 6, Cox’s Bazar, February 7, 2019.

[161] Human Rights Watch interview, Mohamed Tua Sin, Cox’s Bazar, February 12, 2019.

[162] Human Rights Watch interview with, and written note received from, Mohamad Sufire, Cox’s Bazar, February 12, 2019.

[163] Cox’s Bazar Education Sector Meeting, April 11, 2018, https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/bangladesh/document/... (accessed July 25, 2019).

[164] Education Cannot Wait Facilitated Multi-Year Resilience Programme, Bangladesh, 2018, p. 27, http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/FIELD/Dhaka/pdf/EDU/ECW_M... (accessed July 15, 2019).

[165] Human Rights Watch interviews, humanitarian officials, Cox’s Bazar, February 15 and 17, 2019.

[166] Inter-Agency Network on Education in Emergencies, “Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery,” 2012, p. 81.

[167] Sunaina Kumar, “How Rohingya refugee children are torn between languages,” Refugees Deeply, April 1, 2019, https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/articles/2019/04/01/how-rohingya-refugee-children-are-torn-between-languages (accessed September 17, 2019).

[168] Human Rights Watch interview with senior humanitarian official, Cox’s Bazar, February 17, 2019.

[169] Government of Bangladesh, “Leaving No One Behind: Education for girls and boys of Rohingya refugees and host communities in Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Funding Proposal to the Global Partnership for Education,” [uploaded] November 5, 2018, p. 12, https://www.globalpartnership.org/sites/default/files/20180813_gpe_proposal_rohingya_final.pdf (accessed July 17, 2019).

[170] Guidelines for Informal Education Program (GIEP) for Children of Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals (FDMN) in Bangladesh, May 15, 2019, p. 1,

https://www.globalpartnership.org/sites/default/files/2019-05-bangladesh... (accessed July 17, 2019).

[171] Emphasis in original. Cox’s Bazar Education Sector, “LCFA Task Force Meeting, May 5, 2019,” https://www.dropbox.com/sh/07tiv0qui6nmjsn/AACEslLh1bCw686YDUMCpYrda?dl=...

[172] Human Rights Watch interviews with instructors Jamin, Mohamad Hanim, Mohamad Yunaid, and Jani Alam, Cox’s Bazar, February 9, 2019.

[173] Human Rights Watch interview, Anwar Islam, Cox’s Bazar, February 15, 2019.

[174] Human Rights Watch interview, Nur Bashar, Cox’s Bazar, February 15, 2019.

[175] Human Rights Watch interview, Mohamad Siddiq, Cox’s Bazar, February 15, 2019.

[176] Human Rights Watch interviews with instructor, learning center in camp 7, Cox’s Bazar, February 6, 2019.

[177] Human Rights Watch interview, Yesmin Sultana, learning center in camp 11, Cox’s Bazar, February 5, 2019.

[178] Human Rights Watch interview, Iffat Farjana, instructor at learning center in camp 7, Cox’s Bazar, February 6, 2019

[179] Human Rights Watch interview with Ruma, learning center in the Cox’s Bazar camps, February 5, 2019.

[180] See “International legal standards,” Section III.

[181] UNHCR, “Education emergency standard,” https://emergency.unhcr.org/entry/53852/education-emergency-standard, accessed September 3, 2019. Bullet points in original.

[182] Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis, March – December 2018, p. 60,  https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/JRP%20for%20Rohingya%20Humanitarian%20Crisis%20-%20FOR%20DISTRIBUTION.PDF (accessed September 12, 2019).

[183] Human Rights Watch interview, senior humanitarian official, Cox’s Bazar, February 17, 2019.

[184] Cox’s Bazar Education Sector, “Education Sector: Dashboard and 5W Analysis on July 28, 2019,” https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/bangladesh/document/education-sector-dashboard-and-5w-analysison-28-july-2019 (accessed September 17, 2019).

[185] Human Rights Watch interview with Abdul Ayas, Cox’s Bazar, February 10, 2019.

[186] 2019 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Emergency, January-December, p.36; UNICEF, Beyond Survival: Rohingya Refugee Children in Bangladesh Want to Learn, p. 14.

[187] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohamed Tawky, February 10, 2019.

[188] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohazia Mohamed, February 12, 2019.

[189] Letter from Pioneer Rohingya High School administration to Human Rights Watch, February 12, 2019.

[190] 2019 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Emergency, January-December, p. 35. The Rohingya instructors whom Human Rights Watch interviewed in learning centers, in unofficial schools teaching the Myanmar curriculum, or as private tutors, had at least a Grade 9 education, and a majority studied until class 10.

[191] PRIO, We Must Prevent a Lost Generation: Community-Led Education in Rohingya Camps, July 10, 2019, pp. 17, 20, 21, https://www.prio.org/Publications/Publication/?x=11387 (accessed July 26, 2019).

[192] Id., p.13.

[193] Human Rights Watch group interview with 13 children studying with the same tutor, and group interview with 12 children all studying with several different private tutors, Cox’s Bazar, February 11 and 12, 2019.

[194] Human Rights Watch interview, Mohamed M. (a pseudonym), Cox’s Bazar, February 13, 2019.

[195] Human Rights Watch interview, Rahul Amin, Cox’s Bazar, February 11, 2019.

[196] Human Rights Watch interviews with Bashar B., Nur N., Salah Uddin, Cox’s Bazar, February 11, 15, 14, 2019.

[197] Human Rights Watch interview, Bashar B. (a pseudonym), Cox’s Bazar, February 11, 2019.

[198] Human Rights Watch interview, Bashar B., Cox’s Bazar, February 11, 2019.

[199] Human Rights Watch interview, Nur N. (a pseudonym), Cox’s Bazar, February 15, 2019.

[200] Human Rights Watch interview, Nur N., Cox’s Bazar, February 15, 2019.

[201] Human Rights Watch group interviews with 12 children, Cox’s Bazar, February 12, 2019.

[202] Human Rights Watch interview, Salah Uddin, Cox’s Bazar, February 14, 2019.

[203] Human Rights Watch interview, Salah Uddin, Cox’s Bazar, February 14, 2019.

[204] Human Rights Watch interview, Ali Hossin, Cox’s Bazar, February 14, 2019.

[205] Letter from Pioneer Rohingya High School administration to Human Rights Watch, February 12, 2019.

[206] Human Rights Watch interviews, Cox’s Bazar, February 9, 14, 15, 2019.

[207] Human Rights Watch interview, Mohamed Hanim, Cox’s Bazar, February 9, 2019.

[208] Human Rights Watch interview, Anwar Islam, Cox’s Bazar, February 15, 2019.

[209] Bangladesh Education Sector, “5W Analysis,” Excel sheet, January 22, 2019, https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/bangladesh/document/... (accessed May 28, 2019).

[210] Human Rights Watch interviews, humanitarian education officials, Cox’s Bazar, February 2019. In 2015, the National Task Force on Rohingya permitted the construction of permanent school buildings in camps for registered Rohingya refugees who arrived before mid-1992. Humanitarian Response Plan: Rohingya Refugee Crisis, September 2017-February 2018, October 2017, p. 18.

[211] 2019 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Emergency, January-December, p. 45.

[212] Human Rights Watch interview, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, February 18, 2019, Cox’s Bazar.

[213] Human Rights Watch interviews, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, February 18, 2019, and humanitarian education officials, Cox’s Bazar, February 15 and 17, 2019.

[214] Human Rights Watch interview, BRAC education director, February 19, 2019, Cox’s Bazar.

[215] Human Rights Watch interview, senior humanitarian education official, Cox’s Bazar, February 17, 2019.

[216] E.g., a learning center in Camp 7. Human Rights Watch interviews with facilitators and observations, February 5, 2019.

[217] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohamad Ayas, Cox’s Bazar, February 5, 2019.

[218] 2019 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis, January-December, p. 36.

[219] 2019 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Emergency, January-December, p. 35.

[220] UNICEF, “Migration, displacement and education: Building bridges, not walls,” ED/GEMR/MRT/2018/P1/12, 2018, pp. 24-27.

[221] UNICEF, Evaluation of UNICEF’s Response to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis in Bangladesh, Vol. 2, Annexes, November 2018, p. 24, https://www.unicef.org/evaldatabase/files/UNICEF-Rohingya_Response_Evalu... (accessed August 1, 2019).

[222] Human Rights Watch observations, learning centers in the camps and a primary school in host community, Cox’s Bazar, February 5, 9, 12, 2019.

[223] Human Rights Watch interview with Shabnur Akhter, Cox’s Bazar, February 6, 2019.

[224] Human Rights Watch interview with Arafa, Rohingya instructor at learning center in camp 11, Cox’s Bazar, February 8, 2019.

[225] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohamad Ayas, Cox’s Bazar, February 5, 2019.

[226] Human Rights Watch interview with Abdus Shukur, Cox’s Bazar, February 6, 2019.

[227] At younger ages, the number of boys and girls enrolled in learning centers is roughly equal: about 41,000 girls and the same number of boys ages 4-5, and 85,000 girls ages 6-14 compared to 88,000 boys, as of January 2019. Few children older than 10 or 11 years attend the learning centers. Cox’s Bazar 5W Data - Education Sector, “190122_edsector_5w,” Excel sheet, “Summary” tab, https://data.humdata.org/dataset/cox-s-bazar-5w-data-education-sector (accessed August 1, 2019).

[228] 2019 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Emergency, January-December, p. 35.

[229] See e.g. Human Rights Watch, “All of My Body Was Pain”: Sexual Violence against Rohingya Women and Girls in Burma, November 16, 2017.

[230] Human Rights Watch interview, Toslima, Balukhali 2 camp learning center, Cox’s Bazar, February 7, 2019.

[231] Human Rights Watch interview, Mohamed Anis, Cox’s Bazar, February 15, 2019.

[232] Human Rights Watch interviews with COAST instructors and administrators, Cox’s Bazar, February 16, 2019.

[233] 2019 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Emergency, January-December, p. 19.

[234] Ibid., pp. 29-31.

[235] Gender Based Violence Information Management System, “Quarterly Factsheet 2019 (January – March), p.2, https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/11_idFiV-G2844XTYagLYRgH3gjNO9Y_H (accessed June 12, 2019).

[236] Human Rights Watch interview, Medecins Sans Frontieres advocacy officer, Cox’s Bazar, February 16, 2019.

[237] Simon Lewis, Poppy McPherson, Ruma Paul, “In Rohingya Camps, a political awakening faces a backlash,” Reuters, April 24, 2019, https://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFKCN1S000Z?feedType=RSS&feed... (accessed June 2, 2019).

[238] Human Rights Watch interview with UN Women representative, Cox’s Bazar, February 16, 2019.

[239] Human Rights Watch interview with Saiful Islam, Pulse Bangladesh, Cox’s Bazar, February 8, 2019.

[240] Fortify Rights, “ARSA: End Abduction, Torture, Threats Against Rohingya Refugees and Women Aid Workers,” March 14, 2019, https://www.fortifyrights.org/publication-20190314.html (accessed June 10, 2019).

[241] Lewis, McPherson, Paul, “In Rohingya Camps, a political awakening faces a backlash,” Reuters, April 24, 2019.

[242] UNHCR, “Bangladesh Refugee Emergency: Population factsheet,” May 31, 2019; Center for Disability in Development (CDD) and CBM, “Inclusive Humanitarian Actions for Rohingya Refugees and Host Communities,” January 2019, p.2, https://cdd.org.bd/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/CDD_CBM-Rohingya-Response-Brochure-January-Final.pdf (accessed July 31, 2019).

[243] CDD and CBM, “Inclusive Humanitarian Actions for Rohingya Refugees and Host Communities,” p. 2.

[244] 2019 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Emergency, January-December, p. 45.

[245] A Humanity and Inclusion project aims to provide inclusive education, sports, and mainstreaming disability into service provision for 4,712 children and other vulnerable people in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps and host communities. “Bangladesh 2018,” September 2018, p.6, https://hi.org/sn_uploads/federation/country/Humanity---Inclusion-Bangla... (accessed July 29, 2019).

[246] CBM, “Responding to the Rohingya Crisis,” April 4, 2019, https://www.cbm.org/news/news/news-2019/responding-to-the-rohingya-crisis/ (accessed August 1, 2019).

[247] See, e.g. Human Rights Watch, “Bangladesh: Rohingya Refugees with Disabilities,” September 24, 2018.

[248] Human Rights Watch interviews with INGO staff, Cox’s Bazar, February 15 and 16, 2019. See also Shafquat Alamgir,

 “Registration of INGOs in Bangladesh,” Daily Observer, April 13, 2019, https://www.observerbd.com/details.php?id=193122 (accessed July 23, 2019).

[249] Human Rights Watch interviews with international NGO staff, Cox’s Bazar, February 16-20, 2019.

[250] Ibid.

[251] U.S. Department of Labor, 2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor: Bangladesh, p. 2, https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/5bd05aa62.pdf (accessed August 1, 2019).

[252] UNICEF, Evaluation of UNICEF’s Response to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis in Bangladesh, November 2018, Vol. 2, Annex 4, “Summary of Response Against Core Commitments for Children,” p. 22.

[253] Human Rights Watch interview with Shabnur, learning center instructor, Cox’s Bazar, February 6, 2019.

[254] Human Rights Watch interview with Abdus Shukur, Cox’s Bazar, February 6, 2019.

[255] Human Rights Watch interview with Ruma, Bangladeshi learning center instructor, Cox’s Bazar, February 5, 2019.

[256] Human Rights Watch interview with Toslima, Rohingya learning center instructor Balukhali 2 camp, Cox’s Bazar, February 7, 2019.

[257] See “International Legal Standards,” Section III.

[258] Human Rights Watch, “When I Picture My Future, I See Nothing”: Barriers to Education for Syrian Refugee Children in Turkey, November 8, 2015, “Economic Hardship,” Section II, https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/11/08/when-i-picture-my-future-i-see-nothing/barriers-education-syrian-refugee-children; “Growing Up Without an Education”: Barriers to Education for Syrian Refugee Children in Lebanon, July 19, 2016, “Work Restrictions,” Section II, https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/07/19/growing-without-education/barriers... “We’re Afraid for Their Future”: Barriers to Education for Syrian Refugee Children in Jordan, August 16, 2016, “Economic-Related Barriers: Work Restrictions,” Section III, https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/08/16/were-afraid-their-future/barriers-education-syrian-refugee-children-jordan.

[259] Human Rights Watch interviews with NGO staff, Cox’s Bazar, August-September 2019; “Birth registration in Cox’s Bazar to restart soon,” The Business Standard, September 12, 2019, https://tbsnews.net/bangladesh/birth-registration-coxs-bazar-restart-soon (accessed September 17, 2019).

[260] Office of the Registrar General, Birth and Death Registration, “Welcome all to the office of the Registrar General, Birth & Death Registration,” no date, http://br.lgd.gov.bd/english.html (accessed June 10, 2019).

[261] Bangladesh, Act No. 29 of 2004, December 7, 2004, Articles 2(n) and 3, (amended in 2013) available at https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/511b54192.pdf (accessed June 10, 2019).

[262] UNICEF, “Bangladesh declares first ever national Birth Registration Day,” July 3, 2007, https://www.unicef.org/media/media_40280.html, (accessed June 11, 2019).

[263] UNHCR, “UNHCR Submission on Bangladesh: 30th UPR session,” May 2018, p. 2, https://www.refworld.org/docid/5b081ec94.html (accessed 26 July 2019).

[264] Jakia Ahmed, “What happens to Rohingya children born in Bangladesh,” Dhaka Tribune, September 25, 2017, https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2017/09/25/happens-rohingya-chil... (accessed June 10, 2019).

[265] Jakia Ahmed, “What happens to Rohingya children born in Bangladesh,” Dhaka Tribune, September 25, 2017;

 “Birth registration in Cox’s Bazar to restart soon,” The Business Standard, September 12, 2019,

[266] “Registration of births is on in the camps,” New Age, January 21, 2018, http://www.newagebd.net/article/33085/registration-of-birth-on-in-camps (accessed June 12, 2019).

[267]“All Rohingya refugees registered: Minister,” The Daily Star,  July 11, 2018, https://www.thedailystar.net/rohingya-crisis/all-rohingya-refugees-regis... (accessed June 10, 2019).

[268] “300 Rohingya in Bangladesh Traveled Abroad on Bangladeshi Passports,” The Irawaddy, June 7, 2019, https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/300-rohingya-bangladesh-traveled-abroad-b... (accessed June 10, 2019).

[269] Human Rights Watch, Bangladesh: Rohingya Refugee Students Expelled, April 1, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/04/02/bangladesh-rohingya-refugee-students-expelled.

[270]“DSCC accused of issuing birth certificates to Rohingyas, probe body formed,” Dhaka Tribune, March 28, 2018, https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/dhaka/2018/03/28/dscc-accused-is... (accessed June 10, 2019).

[271] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews, staff at international humanitarian NGOs, Cox’s Bazar, September 1, 2019.

[272] UNHCR, States of Denial: A review of UNHCR’s response to the protracted situation of stateless Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, December 2011, p. 8.

[273] UNESCO, Education for Rohingya Refugees and Host Communities in Bangladesh: Education Cannot Wait Facilitated Multi-Year Resilience Programme 2018-2020, p. 22,

http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/FIELD/Dhaka/pdf/EDU/ECW_M... (accessed July 17, 2019),

[274] US AID Foreign Aid Explorer, explorer.usaid.gov, Bangladesh, Fiscal Year 2018, accessed November 5, 2019; British High Commission Dhaka, “UK announces extra 87 million funding for Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh,” September 22, 2019, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-announces-extra-87-million-funding..., accessed November 5, 2019.

[275] 2019 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis, January-December, p. 89.

[276] Cox’s Bazar Education Sector: Dashboard, October 7, 2019, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/190929_edsecto... (accessed November 9, 2019).

[277] For example, the two largest education actors in the JRP are UNICEF, with an education budget of $34 million, and UNHCR, with a $12.3 million budget under the plan. However, these two agencies’ own funding requests for education in 2019 are substantially larger than what is reflected in the JRP: UNICEF’s 2019 education budget is $49 million, while UNHCR’s is $26.9 million. See 2019 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis, January-December, p. 89; UNICEF, “Humanitarian Action for Children: Bangladesh,” January 2019, p. 3, https://www.unicef.org/appeals/files/2019-HAC-Bangladesh(2).pdf; UNHCR, “Operations: Bangladesh,” “2019 Revised Budget for Bangladesh,” http://reporting.unhcr.org/node/2539 (accessed June 3, 2019).

[278] Human Rights Watch interview, international NGO staff, Cox’s Bazar, February 19, 2019.

[279] OECD Refugee Funding Report, 2019.

[280] Human Rights Watch, Following the Money: Lack of Transparency in Donor Funding for Syrian Refugee Education, September 14, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/09/14/following-money/lack-transparency-....

[281] Human Rights Watch interview, senior humanitarian agency official, Cox’s Bazar, February 16, 2019.

[282] Human Rights Watch interview, Alam Rashid, director, NONGOR, Cox’s Bazar, February 8, 2019.

[283] Human Rights Watch interview, international NGO education official, Cox’s Bazar, February 15, 2019.

[284] Human Rights Watch interview, international NGO education official, Cox’s Bazar, February 17, 2019.

[285] Sarah Charles, Cindy Huang, Lauren Post, Kate Geogh, “Five Ways to Improve the World Bank Funding for Refugees and Hosts in Low-Income Countries and Why These Dedicated Resources Matter More than Ever,” Center for Global Development, November 18, 2018, https://www.cgdev.org/publication/five-ways-improve-world-bank-funding-refugees-and-hosts-low-income-countries-and-why (accessed July 23, 2019).

[286] Id.

[287] “Rights Groups Press Tanzania to Drop Pregnant Students Ban,” Human Rights Watch, June 18, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/06/18/rights-groups-press-tanzania-drop-pregnant-students-ban; “World Bank scraps $300m education loan to Tanzania over ban on pregnant schoolgirls,” Theirworld, November 15, 2018, https://theirworld.org/news/world-bank-scraps-300m-education-loan-to-tanzania-over-ban-on-pregnant-schoolgirls (accessed September 15, 2019).

[288] World Bank, “Lebanon - Reaching All Children with Education (RACE 2) Program for Results Project,” Report No. 108014, September 2, 2016, http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/980641475200856910/pdf/Lebaon-... (accessed December 10, 2018).

[289] Environmental and Social Framework, World Bank, 2016, p. 1, http://pubdocs.worldbank.org/en/837721522762050108/Environmental-and-Social-Framework.pdf (accessed September 15, 2019).

[290] High Level Meeting on Action for Refugee Education, “Education Charter for Action,” https://www.actionforrefugeeeducation.net/charter-for-action (accessed September 3, 2019).

[291] World Bank, “Commitments,” High Level Meeting on Action for Refugee Education, p. 1, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5b5b0e973917ee4023caf5f4/t/5baa77af24a69467b83e9eea/1537898418369/World+Bank+Commitments+on+Action+for+Refugee+Education.pdf (accessed September 3, 2019).

[292] “World Bank Provides $700 Million to Improve Primary Education in Bangladesh,” World Bank, June 14, 2018, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2018/06/14/world-bank-pr... see also http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/121231568368848062/pdf/Banglad... (accessed September 29, 2019).

[293] “Bangladesh: World Bank Provides $510 Million to Improve Secondary Education,” World Bank, August 13, 2018, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2018/08/13/bangladesh-wo... (accessed July 29, 2019); “International Development Association Program Appraisal Document on a Proposed Credit in the Amount of $510 Million and a Grant in the Amount of $10 Million to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh,” November 23, 2017, http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/377151513825229495/pdf/Banglad... (accessed September 23, 2019).

[294] Human Rights Watch interview, World Bank education officials, Washington D.C., September 25, 2019.

[295] Sarah Charles, Cindy Huang, Lauren Post, Kate Geogh, “Five Ways to Improve the World Bank Funding for Refugees and Hosts in Low-Income Countries and Why These Dedicated Resources Matter More than Ever,” Center for Global Development, November 18, 2018.

[296] “Charter of the Global Partnership for Education,” revised June 2019, 1.2(a) (“The Global Partnership for Education’s vision, mission, goals and objective are established in its strategic plans, approved by the Board from time to time. GPE’s guiding principles are: a) Education as a public good, a human right and an enabler of other rights. [etc.]”

https://www.globalpartnership.org/sites/default/files/2019-06-gpe-charte... (accessed September 2, 2019).

[297] Global Partnership for Education, “Application for accelerated funding for Bangladesh,” Grants and Performance Committee Meeting September 17, 2018, GPC/2018/09 DOC 02, Annex 2, p. 12,

https://www.globalpartnership.org/sites/default/files/gpc-2018-09-doc_02_-_bangladesh_accelerated_funding_proposal-en_no_pd.pdf (accessed July 29, 2019).

[298] Ibid, p. 7.

[299] UNHCR, “Education emergency standard,” https://emergency.unhcr.org/entry/53852/education-emergency-standard, accessed September 3, 2019. Bullet points in original.

[300] High Level Meeting on Action for Refugee Education, “Education Charter for Action,” https://www.actionforrefugeeeducation.net/charter-for-action (accessed September 3, 2019).

[301] World Bank, “Commitments,” High Level Meeting on Action for Refugee Education, p. 1, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5b5b0e973917ee4023caf5f4/t/5baa77af24a69467b83e9eea/1537898418369/World+Bank+Commitments+on+Action+for+Refugee+Education.pdf (accessed September 3, 2019).

[302] Constitution of Bangladesh, Articles 11 and 17(a), available at http://hrlibrary.umn.edu/research/bangladesh-constitution.pdf (accessed May 20, 2019).

[303] Bangladesh Ministry of Education, National Education Policy, “Preface,” p. iii, December 2010, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/02.National-Ed... (accessed June 10, 2019).

[304] National Child Policy (emphasis added), 2011, http://ecd-bangladesh.net/document/documents/National-Children-Policy-20... (accessed June 10, 2019).

[306] Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adopted November 20, 1989, G.A. Res. 44/25, annex, 44 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 167, U.N. Doc. A/44/49 (1989), entered into force September 2, 1990, http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b38f0.html (accessed June 8, 2018), art. 28-29; Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families, adopted December 18, 1990, G.A. Res. 45/158, entered into force July 1, 2003, https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-13... (accessed August 25, 2019).

[307] UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Joint General Comment No. 4, and No. 23, Committee on the Rights of the Child on State Obligations Regarding the Human Rights of Children in the Context of International Migration in Countries of Origin, Transit, Destination and Return, U.N. Doc. CMW/C/GC/4-CRC/C/GC/23 (2017), http://www.refworld.org/docid/5a12942a2b.html (accessed June 8, 2018), para. 59.

[308] Id., paras. 9, 59.

[309] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Concluding Observations, Bangladesh, June 26, 2009, paragraph 79, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/docs/co/CRC.C.BGD.CO.4_en.pdf (accessed June 8, 2019). In 2003, the Supreme Court ordered the government to register Urdu-speakers as citizens and issue them national identification documents. UNHCR, “How a Bangladesh court ruling changed the lives of more than 300,000 stateless people,” September 23, 2015, https://www.unhcr.org/news/latest/2015/2/54ec22869/bangladesh-court-ruli... (accessed June 17, 2019).

[310] CRC, Concluding Observations, Bangladesh, October 30, 2015, paragraph 66(c), https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.asp...

 (accessed June 8, 2019).

[311] UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Concluding observations, Bangladesh, March 2011, paragraphs 27-28, http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G11/417/30/PDF/G1141730.pdf?O... 3 (accessed June 8, 2019).

[312] CEDAW, Concluding observations, Bangladesh, November 25, 2016, paragraph 40(d), https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N16/402/50/PDF/N1640250.pd... (accessed June 12, 2019).

[313] CEDAW, General Recommendation No. 36 on the right of girls and women to education, CEDAW/C/GC/36, November 16, 2017, paragraph 39(a), https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CEDAW/Shared%20Documents/1_Global/... (accessed July 26, 2019).

[314] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), adopted December 16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 49, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 993 U.N.T.S. 3, entered into force Jan. 3, 1976, http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b36c0.html, art. 13. Human Rights Watch believes secondary education should also be compulsory and free to all.

[315] UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 13, The Right to Education, U.N. Doc. E/C.12/1999/10 (1999), para. 51.

[316] Ibid., para. 57.

[317] CESCR, General Comment No. 20, Non-Discrimination in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, U.N. Doc. E/C.12/GC/20 (2009), http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a60961f2.html (accessed June 8, 2018), para. 30.

[318] CESCR, General Comment No. 20; CESCR, “Statement of the CESCR: Duties of States Towards Refugees and Migrants under the ICESCR,” March 31, 2017, U.N. Doc. E/C.12/2017/1 (2017), https://undocs.org/E/C.12/2017/1 (accessed July 23, 2018).

[319] CESCR, “Statement of the CESCR,” para. 8.

[320] CESCR, “Concluding Observations on the initial report of Bangladesh,” April 18, 2018, paragraph 27, E/C.12/BGD/CO/1, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.asp... (accessed June 12, 2019).

[321] UN, “General Assembly Endorses First-Ever Global Compact on Migration, Urging Cooperation among Member States in Protecting Migrants,” December 19, 2018, https://www.un.org/press/en/2018/ga12113.doc.htm (accessed May 10, 2019).

[322] Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Part II: Global Compact on Refugees, A/73/12 (Part II), “Education,” section 2.1, paragraph 68, September 13, 2018.

[323] Bangladesh ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on November 30, 2007. Bangladesh accepted the Inquiry procedures set out in articles 6-7 as well as the convention’s Optional Protocol, which provides for individual communications from persons with disabilities to the Convention’s expert committee, on May 12, 2008.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am