The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), also known as the UN Refugee Agency, is a United Nations programme mandated to protect, support and assist refugees in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement in another country. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland, and it is a member of the United Nations Development Group.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), organization established as the successor to the International Refugee Organization (IRO; 1946–52) by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1951 to provide legal and political protection for refugees until they could acquire nationality in new countries of residence. UNHCR intervenes with various national governments in order to ensure such minimal rights as freedom from arbitrary expulsion, access to the courts, work and educational opportunities, and possession of identity and travel documents.
The primary purpose of UNHCR is to safeguard the rights and well-being of people who have been forced to flee. They include refugees, returnees, stateless people, the internally displaced and asylum-seekers. In both countries of asylum and countries of origin, they work within national political, economic and social structures to bring policies, practices and laws into compliance with international standards.In times of forced displacement, they influence governments, non-governmental partners and the public at large to adopt practices that ensure the protection of those in need. UNHCR uses cash-based interventions to provide protection, assistance and services to the most vulnerable. Cash and vouchers help the displaced meet a variety of needs, including access to food, water, healthcare, shelter, that allow them to build and support livelihoods, and to facilitate voluntary repatriation. It ensures that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another country.
Rohingya are an ethnic group, largely comprising of Muslims, who predominantly live in Rakhine province of Buddhist-majority Myanmar, who are forced to leave their country due to communal violence and repeated military operations. They speak a dialect of Bengali, as opposed to the commonly spoken Burmese language. Myanmar considers them as persons who migrated to their land during the Colonial rule. So, it has not granted Rohingyas full citizenship. Since they are not citizens, they are not entitled to be part of civil service. Their movements are also restricted within the Rakhine state.Due to this reason, the Rohingya community have faced decades of discrimination by the majority Buddhist population in Myanmar.
Myanmar state which was ruled by the military junta until 2011, has been accused of ethnic cleansing in Rakhine by the United Nations. It deported thousands of Rohingya to Bangladesh in the seventies. Afterwards, in June 2012 there was another wave of violence between the Rohingyas and Rakhine’s Buddhist natives because of the rape and murder of a Rakhine woman in a Rohingya-dominated locality. As a result of which there were riots, which went on for almost a month.
According to United Nations, 33,000 Rohingyas refugees were living in the registered camps since the 1990s. A further 200,000 undocumented Rohingyas were living outside them. Of this Rohingya population in Bangladesh, 74,000 had fled following military operations in Rakhine State in October 2016 when there were riots in Myanmar. They reach Bangladesh either by walking for days through jungles and mountains, or brave dangerous sea voyages across the Bay of Bengal.
Recently, there was another wave of violence when on 25th August, 2017, Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a group previously known as Harakah al-Yaqin attacked on 30 police posts and an army base in Rakhine state. The ARSA is an armed guerrilla outfit, which came into existence in 2016 and claims to be fighting for a separate state for Rohingya. The attack by ARSA led to clearance operations by the Myanmar military which has once again affected the lives of Rohingya. According to the UN, as of 28th September 2017 as many as 501,000 Rohingya refugees are estimated to have fled to Bangladesh since 25th August 2017.