Rohingya Refugees are Receiving Official Identities for the First Time

An estimated 11,000 refugees will be registered every single day between now and mid-December.
November 27, 2017, 11:51am

This article originally appeared on VICE News.

The Rohingya have been called the world’s most persecuted people. The Myanmar government has long refused to recognize their citizenship, instead calling them illegal immigrants and leaving the primarily Muslim minority stateless. But for most of those who have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh are having their identities and ethnicity recognized for the first time.


With the total number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh now exceeding one million, the government is currently undergoing a massive effort to register every single one. The authorities say that 11,000 refugees are being registered every day, and that at this rate, the process will be done by Dec. 12.

At first, the identity cards only stated that the refugees were from Myanmar, but after receiving complaints, they began to include the word “Rohingya.”

Mohammad Ismail, a Rohingya refugee, told VICE News that he is eager to get official documentation: “We are happy. We are globally recognized as Rohingya. Burma rejects us, but identify ourselves as Rohingya.”

More than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when the Myanmar military began its latest campaign of violence, torture and rape to drive them out of the country. Those who have escaped now face squalid conditions in cramped refugee camps.

“Without registration, without official recognition in this country, these people have no rights,” Kitty McKenzie, UNHCR spokesperson, told VICE News. She added that registration allows aid agencies to assess needs and thus better distribute aid. It also provides information that would be useful if the refugees were to be repatriated, a process which may begin within the next two months.

The Myanmar government has effectively denied the Rohingya citizenship since passing a nationality law in 1982. Instead, it has attempted to issue the minority “National Verification Cards,” which don’t acknowledge their citizenship nor their ethnicities. As a result, many Rohingya refused to accept them.

Having arrived earlier that day, Rohingya refugees sit and rest in a camp before figuring out where to set up their own tent in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh on Sep. 18, 2017. Laurel Chor/VICE News

Rohingya refugees wait in line outside a registration center in Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on Sep. 20, 2017. Laurel Chor/VICE News

Rohingya women stand on top of the hill in Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on Sep. 20, 2017. Laurel Chor/VICE News

Outside a registration center in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Jaidan Khatun, a Rohingya refugee, proudly wears her brand-new identity card. It’s the first official document she’s received that recognizes her Rohingya ethnicity. Sep. 22, 2017. Laurel Chor/VICE News