Over 400,000 Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh are being denied access to education after fleeing from their homes in Myanmar due to ethnic cleansing and religious persecution, where Muslims have faced increasing violence for decades, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Bangladeshi authorities are currently prohibiting Rohingya children from receiving any form of education in the Cox’s Bazaar refugee camps, HRW said in a report released on Tuesday titled, “‘Are We Not Human?’: Denial of Education for Rohingya Refugee Children in Bangladesh.” Foreign agencies and aid groups are banned from providing any form of accredited education to refugee children, and refugees are unable to attend nearby schools outside the camps, according to Reuters.
Comprising many interviews from Rohingya refugees, United Nations staff members, and government officials, the 81-page report reveals that the government of Bangladesh is eager to return the hundreds of thousands of refugees to their native country of Myanmar, after being displaced by religious persecution and ethnic cleansing. The government initially set a time limit of two years to let the refugees stay in Bangladesh and is actively depriving refugee children of their right to an education in the process, according to the report.
“Depriving an entire generation of children of education is in no one’s interest,” said HRW Associate Children’s Rights Director Bill Van Esveld. “Bangladesh has made it clear that it doesn’t want the Rohingya to remain indefinitely, but depriving children of education just compounds the harm to the children and won’t resolve the refugees’ plight any faster.”
Despite denying HRW’s accusations, the Bangladesh Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission Chief Mahub Alam Talukder told Reuters, “Rohingya will have to go back to Myanmar. They are not our citizens and we can’t allow them to use our national curriculum.”
The report goes on to urge Bangladesh to lift their current restrictions on education and fulfill their obligations to ensure every child living in the country is afforded access to schooling under the 2018 Global Refugee Compact, which requires refugee children to be included in national education systems.
HRW is also encouraging UN agencies to apply pressure on Bangladesh to lift their education restrictions for refugees and call on foreign aid groups and donors to assemble humanitarian plans that include access to formal education for Rohingya refugees with set benchmarks and timelines in place.
“Rohingya refugee children have been watching their chance for an education and a better future evaporate,” said Van Esveld, “and two years on, there is still not even a plan to enroll them in schools.”