GENEVA - Bangladeshi authorities and the U.N. refugee agency have registered more than a quarter million Rohingya refugees and presented them with identity documents that grant them a number of rights and safeguards.
Unlike citizens of a country, stateless people have few rights. They may be deprived of an education, a job or health care. Those who are not registered at birth have no identity. That is the situation for millions of Rohingya who were stripped of their citizenship in neighboring Myanmar in 1982. Many of them are sheltering in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, after fleeing killings and persecution in Myanmar.
Change for better
For most of the more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar, things are about to change for the better. The U.N. refugee agency says the more than 270,000 Rohingya refugees who have completed the registration process have for the first time ever received an identity card.
UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic says the ID card includes a photo and key information, such as name, date of birth and place of birth. It also indicates Myanmar as the country of origin.
"The first and foremost purpose of this registration is humanitarian in order to safeguard their right to return, to regulate their stay and also to make sure that we do not know only how many people there are, that we have a detailed profile which allows us with the more accurate data to deliver far better assistance to this massive refugee population," Mahecic said.
Mahecic says the UNHCR and Bangladeshi authorities hope to complete the registration process for the entire refugee population by November. He cites a number of benefits associated with having an ID card.
Mahecic says the data will allow aid agencies to target assistance to people in acute need, including women and children heading families and people with disabilities. With the monsoon season approaching, he says the registration data will help reunite families who are separated during storms.
He notes the refugees are ripe for exploitation by smugglers and traffickers. Mahecic says the ID card will help authorities combat that nefarious trade.